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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Talakeal's Avatar

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    Default Campaign Diary - Heart of Darkness: The Daughters of Rojukan

    For the past year I have been running a new campaign with a mostly new group, and writing a diary of how each session went, and after reading some fascinating APs on this forum and others I think its time that I shared mine with you all.

    The system is a simplified version of my own Heart of Darkness system (link in signature). It is a character driven Gothic fantasy adventure game, the setting is like a cross between The Dark Tower and Princess Mononoke and the game system is like a cross between Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and Exalted, but the write ups are written in a system agnostic manner so that anyone who is familiar with fantasy RPG tropes should have no trouble following along.


    As many of you may know, I have had a long history of gaming horror stories that I have shared with these forums, and this game is no exception. Though it is by far the most drama-free group I have ever been in, there has still been more than a couple incidents, and I will close each story with an OOC note about what happened during and after the session as well as my creative inspirations going into it.


    I hope you enjoy!
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Campaign Diary - Heart of Darkness: The Daughters of Rojukan

    The city of Merida is the shining jewel of the Eastern Sea. A vast trade metropolis built across the delta of the great river. Its advantageous position, allowing for easy access to both inland trade along the river as well as oceangoing vessels, made it one of the richest kingdoms in the world and a haven for prosperous merchants and talented craftsmen.

    Centuries ago, several devastating earthquakes followed by an outbreak of the Red Death left the city in ruins. The townsfolk clustered onto the densely populated islands near the harbor while the outskirts were left empty and fallow. The portions of the city which were built upon the mainland have been overtaken by wilderness and exist as shadows amongst the greenery, hazy reminders of the past.

    And then unto Meridia came Rojukan. Warrior, way-finder, hero; fifty years ago he came from beyond the Endless Sea. In his time, he defeated monsters and wizards, drove pirates and smugglers from the shores, and fought back the armies of savages who would pillage the city and make its riches their own. With each life he saved through the strength of his arms ten more would be inspired to follow in his image. He was free with his money, and every treasure hoard that he pulled from the ancient ruins quickly found its way into the city’s economy, bringing back the trade that had long been absent from the region. He disappeared into the wilderness twenty years ago, and has not been seen since, but his contribution to Meridia endures, and Rojukan’s legend will never die.

    Meridia is currently undergoing something of a Renaissance. After the appearance Rojukan, the people have been emboldened to recapture their former glory. The city has become crowded, and its inhabitants are eager to reoccupy the ruins and even form colonies further inland. Furthermore, stories of lost treasure have inspired adventurous young treasure hunters to mount expeditions across the river, and no few enterprising individuals have taken to outfitting such doomed expeditions.

    The ruins are not empty, they are home to all manner of outlaws, wild beasts, and inhuman natives who are not eager to relinquish their homes and hunting grounds. And at the same time the warlike Duke Redborne has decided that the city of Meridia would make the perfect addition to his domain.

    Spoiler: Map
    Show



    Spoiler: Setting
    Show

    Armed Forces
    The city has a town watch as well as a small standing army and navy. The army is currently deployed in several fortified outposts on the southern side of the river working to hold off the advance of Duke Redborne’s armies. Mercenaries and bodyguards are common in the city, and most wealthy families maintain their own household guards.
    The Troubadour Society is an elite group of soldiers who coordinate the actions of the various security forces, sharing information and allowing them to work more efficiently than they could on their own. Membership in this society is by invitation only and those who make the cut are very proud of their membership, most displaying their panache openly.
    There is also a secret police force that works directly for the lord of the city for the purposes of rooting out treason. Membership is confidential, and in reality, they are more spies than actual law enforcement. The secret police can be found in every walk of life and have no responsibilities save for keeping their ears to the ground in exchange for a monthly stipend.

    Climate
    Meridia has a warm Mediterranean climate. The weather is usually mild and the region is generally snow free year-round save for a few spots in the highlands. The environs around the city itself consist mostly of clear-water estuaries, mangrove swamps, and arboreal forests.

    Crime
    The legal system of Meridia is built around civil action. Those are convicted of crimes are forced to pay fines to those whom they have wronged or their families. Those who can’t or won’t pay their fines are forced into slavery to work off their debt. Those who are too violent or unstable to be of any use to a slaver and are quickly and quietly hanged.

    Government
    Meridia is a plutocracy. Positions within the cities’ government are bid on by members of the wealthy merchant families, the winner occupying the position for a period of time (usually ten years) and the proceeds going to fund public works.
    The current lord of the city is Andover Starspool, a portly middle-aged man he is by far the wealthiest person in Meridia. His ancestor was a tailor of nearly divine skill who moved into the city when it was still a fractious state controlled by squabbling merchant houses and petty warlords. So great was his talent that each of the city's lords wanted to be his patron, and he skillfully played them against each other, allowing his contracts to be bought out for greater and greater sums until he was the richest man in town, and soon his former patrons would become his servants. He has long since passed from this world, as have his talents, but his estate endures.
    Andover is primarily concerned with the running of his business operations and uses his position for the influence it grants him over the other houses and the opportunities that it provides. He leaves most of the actual civic affairs to his ministers.
    His son, Lemuel Starspool, is a young man who is will one day succeed his father but is currently more concerned with living a life of luxury. The Starspool estate has recently been approached by Teresa Mackrakken in an effort to begin arranging a marriage between Lemuel and Lucia.

    Magic
    The wizard Corrigan Geomanthus has the final authority over all magic in Meridia. He does not permit any save for his apprentices to practice sorcery within city limits, and any renegade mages who defy him are driven out in magical duels. It is said that those who refuse to yield are taken to the lighthouse where their souls are removed from their bodies and turned into magical wind-chimes from which Corrigan draws his power.
    Geomanthus dwells in the Great Lighthouse. A wonder of the ancient world, the lighthouse stands at the center of the harbor, impossibly tall, and throughout Meridia one can tell time by its shadow. It is said that the lighthouse is enchanted, and that its balconies are far higher than they have any right to be, offering an unparalleled view of the heavens and the far corners of the land.
    Soulless children who are born within the city are taken by Corrigan’s elite guard and trained to assist in the hunting down of illegal magic. These soldiers are all well-trained, rarely speak, and personally loyal to Geomanthus. They wear stark black and white robes and heavy iron masks which disguise their own faces with those of beasts and demons.
    Corrigan’s position is the only one in the city which is permanent. He has served the lords of the city for fifty years, but he does so at his own pleasure, for none have the courage to force the issue should the wizard ever shirk his duty and openly defy his orders.
    Geomanthus is approximately seventy years old. He is tall and thin, with a round face, a silver beard that is long and straight, a bald head, and pale grey eyes. He typically dresses in pale blue robes and wields a slender staff.

    Origins
    Little is known about Meridia’s early history. It was once part of a larger empire, but the ancient king, Donnatrius the Vile, was overthrown by a coalition of common folk from many different towns who stormed his castle and ended his totalitarian rule before establishing an egalitarian society lacking a congenital aristocracy. Meridia’s golden ago soon followed, born of the economic freedom that resulted from the abolition of the old ways.

    Religion
    Meridia is the land of ten million gods. Though shrines and smalls chapels dot its streets, there are few temples and no great cathedral from which to start an official state religion. People worship each of the Olympians under dozens of different names, often combining faiths from multiple cultures into a single pantheon haphazardly.
    Others venerate the primordials, the Norns, the twin goddesses of magic, or the Tao. There are cults and family shrines devoted to kami, demons, devils, celestials, angels, manitou, titans, djinn; even outsiders and their worshippers face no prejudice or censure. There are also many esoteric philosophies and those who worship ascended heroes or the spirits of their ancestors. This is in addition to the thousands of minor gods and spirits to whom people offer minor prayers to each day heedless of their origins or existence.
    The city also has its fair share of atheists and philosophers, although these are in the minority as the people of Meridia tend to be a superstitious lot.

    Slavery
    Slavery is nominally legal in Meridia. It is not, however, chattel slavery, but more similar to indentured servitude. Those who cannot pay off their debts or who cannot care for themselves, such as orphans or the handicapped, are sold into slavery. Slaves are paid minimal wages and do have legal rights to own property, family, and to their own health and wellbeing, though the courts are unlikely to intervene in the case of excessive discipline imposed by a cruel master or upon an unruly slave.

    Duke Redborne
    Duke Redborne was once a small-time warlord who ruled a walled port city far to the south. Some say that he is a descendant of Donnatrius the Vile or one of his lackey’s, although such a claim might be pure humbug made to either besmirch his reputation or perhaps make his claim seem more legitimate. After a series of extremely lucky victories he was able to conquer several nearby lands and has since been steadily increasing his power and influence. Some say that he has made a pact with a dark power, but this cannot be verified.
    Duke Redborne’s forces have taken all the lands south of the great river and have even made a few landings on the north bank. Currently he has his sights set on adding Meridia to his domain, and most believe that it is only a matter of time before the city falls.
    The Daughters of Rojukan have been warned to never venture to the south side of the river, for having the grandchildren of the city’s general as his hostages would give the Duke incredible leverage over the defenders, perhaps enough to cause them to shirk their duty and allow his armies to pass into the city unmolested.



    Spoiler: Player Characters
    Show
    Liam
    Liam is a respected craftsman, a tinkerer and metal-worker. He works hard, and though he is not overly gifted in his craft he is more dependable and hardworking than almost anyone in town, and his works are a staple of nearly every house-guard and fighting force in Meridia. He is tough, both mentally and physically, made hard by long hours in the forge, and he is rather handsome when he takes a break from working long enough to groom himself.
    Liam doesn’t care much for other people and finds objects much more interesting, he takes great pride in understanding the inner workings of everything he comes across. Recently he has come into possession of a rifle, a legitimate wonder of a lost age, and works tirelessly to figure how to use it, and hopes to one day learn to make his own.
    Liam has recently begun courting Liquide, and though he has some reservations about a relationship with someone who is less than half is age he finds himself inexplicably drawn to her.
    Liam is loyal to a fault, and though he finds magic to be a lazy shortcut to one’s goals and thinks that the idea of traipsing around the wilderness looking for ancient treasures to be pure folly, he can’t bring himself to let any harm come to the girls. This he has chosen to outfit them with his best goods and accompany them into the wild, donning his sturdiest armor and pledging to keep them safe.
    He often acts as the voice of reason, working hard to keep them grounded and not to bite off more than they can chew, and often finds himself in opposition to Lucia’s more reckless tendencies and almost suicidal overconfidence.

    Attributes:
    Agility: Ordinary
    Charisma: Ordinary
    Dexterity: Ordinary
    Endurance: Great
    Intelligence: Exceptional
    Perception: Ordinary
    Strength: Exceptional
    Willpower: Great

    Skills: Business, Fortitude, Metal Working, Stone Working, Technology
    Traits: Honest, Loyal, Naïve, Strong Back
    Equipment: Heavy Armor, Mason’s Tools, Maul, Pocket Watch, Rope, Shield, Shotgun, Smith’s Tools, Tinker’s Tools



    Lina
    Lina is the youngest child of Reynard and Teresa. She is the most intellectual of her sisters and also the most responsible. As she is younger and less beautiful than either of her sisters she is not expected to inherit or marry into a position of luxury, and thus her parents paid to keep her well educated, hiring expensive tutors who have trained her as both a scholar and a nurse.
    She is short and boyish, with eyes the color of flame and hair the color of blood.
    Unusual things have always happened around Lina, particularly involving heat and fire, and there were times when she thought herself capable of controlling the flames. This strange phenomenon would come to a head one night shortly after returning from the Smuggler’s Den, and would soon come to shape her own destiny as well as that of all who dwell in Meridia.

    Attributes:
    Agility: Ordinary
    Charisma: Ordinary
    Dexterity: Ordinary
    Endurance: Ordinary
    Intelligence: Incredible
    Perception: Ordinary
    Strength: Poor
    Willpower: Incredible

    Skills: Academics, Gaming, Medical, Pyromancy, Reason, Social
    Traits: Born of Flame, Eerie, Empathic, Enlightened, Medium, Poltergeist
    Equipment: Doctor’s Bag, Gaming Pieces, Grimoire, Library, Seer’s Crystals, Silk Clothing




    Liquade
    Liquide is the eldest of Reynard and Teresa’s three children. She is of average height and with the slender but toned build of a gymnast. She is an attractive girl with shoulder length turquoise hair and lavender eyes, signs of the supernatural bloodline that Rojukan brought with him from across the sea, hinting that his status as a demi-god might not be purely honorific.
    She trained as a dancer in childhood and her mother and grandmother hoped she would be a great socialite, but instead she snuck away from the city at every opportunity, preferring to climb trees and explore ruins while wandering the wilderness over the endless games that masquerade as high society. She always dressed for comfort rather than to impress.
    Her parents often fought with her, trying to get her to be a respectable member of society and focus more on ladylike pursuits, and her youth was a constant state of conflict with her parents as well as with her willful younger sisters.
    Liquade’s relationship with her parents has eased somewhat in recent years, when it became apparent that she was barren and that Lucia was the true beauty of the family, her mother’s ambitions for a political marriage were transferred onto the middle daughter
    Liquade was always friendly and had an almost supernatural ability to influence people, though she is often impatient with those who talk in circles or refuse to say what they mean.
    She has recently begun dating Liam, fascinated by the isolated blacksmith and her ability to draw him out of his shell.

    Attributes:
    Agility: Exceptional
    Charisma: Good
    Dexterity: Exceptional
    Endurance: Good
    Intelligence: Great
    Perception: Exceptional
    Strength: Good
    Willpower: Good

    Skills: Acrobatics, Alertness, Animal Handling, Dancing, Marksmanship, Survival, Woodworking
    Traits: Hypnotic Gaze, Limber, Sterile
    Equipment: Bow, Fletcher’s Tools, Investigator’s Kit, Leather Armor, Rope, Spear, Sunglasses, Survival Tools



    Lucia
    Lucia is Reynard’s middle daughter. She is tall, muscular, and voluptuous; almost unanimously thought to be the most beautiful maiden in Meridia. She is also vain, stubborn, overconfident to a fault, and not nearly as charming or clever as she believes herself to be. Still, her tenacity and sheer willpower are often enough to carry her through when her other abilities fail.
    Lucia’s mother and grandmother are working hard to arrange her marriage to Lemuel Starspool, but she has no mind for it, she loves no one but herself. She is determined to reignite her family legacy, to live up to her grandfather’s legend and one day eclipse it with her own.
    She has been training in secret with Lone-Wolf Lancaster, and her skill with the blade almost rivals his own, and she is eager for a chance to put her skills to the test in the real world, and thus she eagerly jumped on the opportunity to protect Liquade as she explored the wild, although she isn’t doing it for any grand cause beyond her own glory. Her overwhelming pride and reckless overconfidence are sure to get her into trouble, but she is sure she can handle it.
    Lucia has few friends, but she is extremely overprotective of those whom she does care for, and any who wrong them will be sure to feel her wrath.
    Lucia suffers from terrible nightmares. She dreams of endless torments and degradations, and in her dreams, she doesn’t know why she is being punished or even who she is. The feelings of guilt and shame when she wakes are even worse.

    Attributes:
    Agility: Good
    Charisma: Good
    Dexterity: Good
    Endurance: Good
    Intelligence: Good
    Perception: Good
    Strength: Great
    Willpower: Great

    Skills: Alchemy, Athletics, Expression, Melee, Resolve, Throwing
    Traits: Absent Minded, Beauty of Legends, Chi Mastery, Eerie, Fast Metabolism, Obstinate, Ward
    Equipment: Alchemy Lab, Lighter, Longsword, Mail Armor, Shield, Throwing Knives






    Spoiler: Friends and Family
    Show
    Anya
    Anya is a small and exotically beautiful girl. She is quiet and submissive, but also loyal to a fault and with a streak of inner steel. Her parents were travelers from a distant land who disappeared under mysterious circumstances when she was a very small child. As with many orphans she was to be sold at a slave auction when Lucia spotted her and insisted that Anya be hers, putting the entirety of her considerable will into coercing her parents into purchasing the girl. Anya has been Lucia’s maid-servant ever since, although in many ways she is treated more like a favored pet. Anya is skilled in domestics, cosmetology, and massage, and is a talented harpist.

    Firiona
    Firiona is the proprietor of the Ostentatious Otter, a small bar and restaurant located near the docks. She has been friends with the Daughters of Rojukan since childhood and the girls spend many evenings at her establishment. She is good natured and easy going, with a soothing voice and inquisitive nature. Firiona is pretty, but not beautiful, with an average build, straight auburn hair, and bright brown eyes.
    Firiona’s parents own the tavern, although they are mostly retired at his point. Her only help is Tita, a large woman with dark skin, thick lips, and a fiery temper who dominates the kitchen like a bull in a pen. She is nominally the chef, but also serves as a bouncer should any of the clients overstep their bounds or get lost in their drink.

    Gustave Tommerson
    Gus Tommerson is another childhood friend of the companions. A jovial young man with cherubic features and boundless enthusiasm. When his merchant parents died and left him their sole heir to their fortune, he decided to purchase a massive warehouse on the docks and renovate it into a store. The Dockside Imports is amongst the largest businesses in town, with polished marble floors, two levels, and numerous statues, tapestries, decorative suits of armor, and works of art lining the walls.
    He also employs Lola, a buxom blonde woman, to serve as his maid and keep the place in working order, paying her more than he can afford both because he doesn’t want to get his own hands dirty and enjoys watching the beautiful girl work.
    Unfortunately, he purchases far more than he sells, and it is only a matter of time before this overly ambitious venture leaves Gustave penniless.

    Isabella Lathien
    The wife of Otto Mackrakken, she serves as the matriarch of the entire clan and head of its estate. Even when her husband isn’t away on one of his military sorties, she still commands the servants with an iron fist. She is proud and confident in her position and does not need to throw her weight around or leverage threats to see her will done. She is a talented seamstress in her own right and her wiry frame belies the powerful spirit within.

    Lancaster
    He is known as Lone-Wolf Lancaster to most, and when they are sure he is out of earshot most people fail to meet even this level of decency and simply call him Loony. Lancaster was once the most promising young recruit in a generation, a true prodigy at battle and a virtuoso with his sword.
    Years ago, he was fast tracked through the military academy and given his own command, but in his first battle he let his pride get the better of him and decided to attack an entire enemy regiment single-handedly. He lost an eye for his trouble, and without him to lead them the men under his command lost their lives. He was drummed out of the service in disgrace.
    Lancaster has spent the years since as a near penniless vagrant, taking work where he can as a bodyguard or enforcer to those few people who aren’t put off by his reputation. Recently he has begun training Lucia in secret, taking her family’s coin and honing her skill with the blade until it is nearly as great as his own. It has yet to be seen if she will put it to better use than he did.
    Lancaster is a tall man with a flowing mustache and a single eye. He is lean and greying and tends to wear what remains of his armor and the broad hat that was once a symbol of his status as a Troubadour.

    Otto Mackrakken
    Otto Mackrakken is the general of Meridia’s armies, one of the few positions that is earned through merit rather money. Otto is a powerful man, with a large muscular belly and broad shoulders. He has severe features, with short gray hair and beard cut in a curt military style. He is wealthy and maintains a large estate, but he is rarely in Meridia, instead spending most of his time on the front. With the threat of Duke Redborne looming ever-present he is more or less a hazy memory in the minds of his grandchildren.
    Otto tolerates his granddaughter’s adventures, but only so long as they keep the good of Meridia and their family line first and foremost in their minds. He thinks Lina’s older sisters have been bad influences on the sweet and bookish little girl.

    Reynard
    Reynard is the son of Rojukan. Nobody knows which of the Meridia’s prostitutes was his mother, for his father visited them all in his day. Indeed, he spent his childhood moving from bawdy house to bawdy house, living with whatever woman his father had last shacked up with before moving on to his next great adventure. Still, the boy was well cared for, Rojukan was generous with his wealth and his son wanted for nothing except perhaps a stable home.
    When he was an adolescent, his father disappeared and the young man found himself in charge of a vast legacy. He was a celebrated bon vivant and a legendary ladies’ man, and though he lacked his father’s courage or muscular physique he exceeded the demi-god in both good looks and charm.
    Just as his fortunes started to run low, he became enraptured by the young Teresa Mackrakken, daughter of the city’s general, and he made a game of seducing her, and eventually sneaking into her window at night. When she came down pregnant, the jig was up, and he attempted to slip away, but his soon to be parent’s in-law tracked him down and explained the facts to him, that his fortune was nearly gone and that his drinking and gambling debts would soon catch up with him, and he could either let Teresa make an honest man out of him or find himself on the block at the slave auction.
    He eventually grew bored with married life and has been spending more and more time trying to find an excuse to be away from the palatial estate that is starting to feel ever more like a prison.

    Teresa Mackrakken
    Daughter to Otto and Isabella, wife of Reynard, and mother to Lina, Lucia, and Liquade. She was widely considered a great beauty, short and perky, with plump curves, lightly freckled skin, soulful green-brown eyes, long lashes, short dark hair, and full lips. She is just now starting to show her age, with the weight of her life starting to darken his spirits and the worry lines starting to find their way about the edges of her face.
    Her daughters think her cruel and overbearing, but in truth she merely worries deeply. She wants them to be safe and provided for, but they want to seek out their fortune in the wider world, where she knows they will only find death and disappointment. Likewise, she is working hard to maintain some connection with a husband whom she fears no longer loves her as much as he once did, or she still does.
    She is working hard to arrange a marriage between Lucia and Lemuel Starspool before the former gets herself killed or worse. She spends a great deal of time actively denying the strange things going on around her, instead focusing on more pragmatic affairs.
    Last edited by Talakeal; 2019-07-20 at 12:48 PM.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Campaign Diary - Heart of Darkness: The Daughters of Rojukan

    Session One: The Smuggler’s Den

    Lucia and Liquade have been planning this expedition for months, an adventure into the abandoned ruins on the far outskirts of Meridia which lie across the river. It took a long time to gather the necessary supplies, and even longer to convince Lina and Liam to accompany them, but now they are ready to set out.

    They leave before dawn, quietly creeping out of the hilltop compound that is home to the Mackrakken family and its servants, and by mid-morning they have left the delta behind and have entered the overgrown forest that was once home to the residential district of Meridia before the coming of the Red Death.

    They spend the afternoon snooping through the dilapidated remains of houses, hoping to find forgotten treasures, but come away with little besides aged pottery and tarnished flatware. As evening draws near, they happen upon an eccentric middle-aged man who introduces himself as Paul Bahane, who asks if they are heroes, to which Lucia replies strongly in the affirmative.

    He is an aging man with deeply tanned skin marked by laugh lines, grayish hair, and a fine brown suit that looks to have last been ironed sometime before the coming of the Red Death. He claims to be from the west and to, in his youth, have been a man of influence and wealth so great that he could have bought all of Meridia if he so chose, but after getting involved in politics and matters of the heart he had his spirit broken, spent years living in darkness, and has now learned to take joy in the simple pleasures of life.

    Paul claims that a couple of highwaymen took his money and his tobacco pouch, which can be identified by the Kokopelli etched on it, and the adventurers agree to get it back for him.

    The quartet continue to explore the ruins, and eventually come across a pair of ruffians, leaning against an overgrown hillside smoking and laughing. When the Daughters of Rojukan approach them and question them, they are dismissive and claim to have never seen Mr. Bahane, although they do carry to tobacco pouch with the Kokopelli insignia upon, prompting a more aggressive interrogation. The pair become actively hostile when the girls drop their grandfather’s name, but when they move to attack their pipes explode, stunning them and allowing the adventurers to subdue them.

    They then discover that the hillside behind them is actually a tarp made to camouflage a tunnel, which Lucia insists they explore. In the darkness they are attacked by a pair of orcish raiders, and though they are surprised these too fall. The group is dismayed to find orcs living this close to Meridia, and worse, Liam finds his own mark on their weapons, indicating that someone is supplying these creatures with Meridian steel.

    Lucia and Liquade continue onward with bravado, and at the end of the tunnel the find a large underground chamber consisting of wooden planks built over the water which, presumably, connects to the river. Armed scoundrels of human, orcish, and lizard-folk heritage work to load and unload cargo from skiffs.

    The Daughters of Rojukan immediately attack the presumed smugglers, and are able to hold their own against them until Master Sneed overhears the commotion and deigns to intervene. This renegade sorcerer is dressed in rich robes covered in arcane sigils, and is attended by a pair of starving children whom he holds in chains. He quickly conjures up a wall of magical fire, separating Lina from her sisters, and induces thoughts of paranoia in Liam’s mind, causing him to panic at what might happen to his beloved Liquade if they were caught here, and thus Liam signals a retreat, untethering one of the nearby boats and imploring Lucia and Liquade to jump in.

    Just as the begins to carry the boat away, a cloaked figure lands in it with them, an elderly man who moves with preternatural quickness and wields a pair of poisoned daggers with masterful skill. He seeks to put an end to the interlopers before they can escape, but a lucky blow from Liam’s hammer knocks him out cold.

    The trio returns to Meridia under cover of darkness. They drop off the unconscious assassin with the town guard, who pronounce him dead and identify him as Master Iuz, a famous killer for hire who had been working for the various criminal cartels of Meridia for decades.

    They do not wait around to ask for a reward or even explain themselves, instead they make haste for the Great Lighthouse, home to the wizard Corrigan Geomanthus. At first his Quiet Guards, imposing figures bereft of souls and hidden behind stark black and white masks, refuse to let them pass, but they suddenly and unexpectedly relent, accompanying them up the steps for an audience with their master.

    At first the old wizard is dismissive of their claims, but an impassioned speech by Liam convinces him to take action, and he opens up a magical gateway to the Smuggler’s Den. After a brief skirmish the Quiet Guard capture Master Sneed and kill off the remaining smugglers before returning to Merida and dealing with the renegade magic user, leaving the Daughters of Rojukan to continue as they see fit.

    Lina is grateful for the rescue, although she is bitter about being put into the situation in the first place, and says that she was subjected to Master Sneed’s experiments, though she doesn’t know what exactly he did.

    They explore the side rooms. The first is a squalid barracks, furnished with cots, crude tables and footlockers, and bedrolls strewn about the floor. Several unfinished games of chance and half drank bottles of alcohol can be found within, likely the remains of diversions that were abandoned when the smugglers found themselves under attack.

    Another side room serves as a stable where livestock is kept. Currently it has a few horses, donkeys, reptilian striders, and a single camel, which Liquade insists on releasing into the wilderness.

    Sneed’s office consists of an expensive writing desk which contains numerous encoded contracts dealing with both the underworld in Meridia as well as slavers and raiders who dwell in the wilderness, many of whom are not even human. He gets contraband and expensive goods into the city without a tariff and also moves common goods outside of the city to sell to those who would not be welcomed in its marketplace. He also has several servants, young children who have all been tortured and malnourished, and who Lina can sense have some sort of supernatural potential.

    Sneed’s bedroom is opulently furnished despite the squalid conditions and contains a hidden coin safe. Behind a dressing screen one can find a small ladder leading down into a claustrophobic alchemy lab, well equipped but mostly devoid of reagents.

    On the other side of the main room they find Master Iuz’s tea garden. It is by far the most picturesque portion of the Smuggler’s Den. It is built under a glass ceiling, now piled up with fallen leaves that give the room a golden orange glow, and contains a living bodhi tree and small babbling brook. An alcove contains what was once a bar and hibachi grill before the outer city fell to ruin, and the interior restaurant and kitchen have been turned into Iuz’s sleeping quarters. From the few documents they can find they see that Iuz had little to do with the daily operations of the smugglers den, mostly using it as a hideout and place to dispose of bodies.

    The explorers are able to find a hidden alcove off the main chamber, which contains a rickety ladder leading down into darkness. Below is a long L-shaped corridor. A side door connects to a cluttered storeroom with piles upon piles of contraband. It is home to a colony of Grue, aggressive batlike creatures with a body shape like a winged monkey and an aversion to bright light. They enter through a ventilation shaft and rest here during the day, the smugglers know to only come in at night, and even then, not without several bright torches and backup lanterns lest they be swarmed. The Daughters of Rojukan are soon mobbed by the beasts, who smash their lanterns and swarm them in the dark, but are eventually driven back. The victorious quartet loot the store room for supplies, as well as a valuable crate of black lotus which they can sell in the opium dens of the city for a hefty sum.

    At the far end of the basement corridor is a large septic pit crossed by several pontoon bridges. Fed by the river, this pit is where the smuggler’s dump their waste. The water is home to It, a large muck dwelling mass of eyes and tentacles that has come in from the sewers of Meridia. It is semi intelligent and on ambivalent terms with the smugglers, and they use It to dispose of the corpses of their enemies, as well as a few people whom their mob connections in the city need to make disappear. It is content to stay here so long as It is being fed but should the supply of bodies ever dry up it may need to squeeze its way back out into the canals to find food.
    Already wounded, the Daughters of Rojukan choose not to fight the monster, and instead agree to continue feeding It.

    The last tunnels heads back towards Meridia, but Lucia is the only one willing to explore it, her companions being hurt and exhausted and quite ready to go home. The group splits up, Lucia going alone while the others escort the captive children back into town. After several miles walking through the damp tunnel that appears to be built underneath the great river, Lucia emerges into the back room of the Apothecary of the Imaginary.

    The apothecary is one of the few businesses in Meridia permitted to deal in alchemical wares, although it mostly sticks to simple tonics and panaceas as true elixirs are forbidden. The shop is run by Fennic, a slender and anxious middle-aged man, balding and beardless. He is very fastidious and likes to keep his shop clean and in order, and always fears that his business could fail or be taken advantage of by ruffians.

    He is incensed when Lucia emerges from his storeroom, but Lucia immediately goes on the offensive, accusing him of working with Master Sneed to import reagents without having to pay a tariff and to give him access to a marketplace where he could sell brews that would be illegal within the city proper.

    In exchange for her silence, Lucia demands unfettered access to the smuggler’s tunnels, and Fennic states that he had a similar arrangement with her father once upon a time, though he does not elaborate.

    Lucia meets up with her sisters and returns home in the dark of the night; they sleep throughout most of the morning. The next afternoon they attempt to seek out Bahane, but find no sign of him, and eventually they come to the conclusion that it was a con, and that he was somehow in league with the smugglers and looking to lure victims to them.



    Two nights later Liam is walking Liquade home after a night on the town, when they see flames emerging from Lina’s room. In a panic, she runs to her little sister, waking Lucia on the way. The three of them put the fire out, and find that Lina refuses to open her eyes; she awoke from a strange unremembered dream and found that anything she looked at burst into flames.

    The four of them decide to go to Geomanthus for help. As they sneak out of the compound they pass Reynard as he is coming in, a jug in his hand, and they all mutually agree that Teresa will never find out about any of this.

    The wizard agrees to see them, and introduces them to Kithicore. The creature is about the size of a small dog but incredibly light, and looks like a cross between a large lizard and a cat. It has diaphanous wings that float in the air and seem to be made as much of smoke as any solid tissue. Kithicore has scales so black they almost appear blue and shining silver eyes lacking any sort of pupil or iris.

    Kithicore licks the flames from Lina’s eyes, and when she opens them her powers are subdued and under control, at least for the moment. Corrigan explains that the strange creature was hatched from an egg that he bought from a girl in the marketplace who claimed they belonged to a dragon. Only one of the clutch has hatched, and what came out was no dragon, at least not one that was anything like the old stories led people to expect. It appears to feed on magic, is able to breathe and fly no matter how thin the air, turns transparent in direct sunlight, and in times of stress can emit a flash of blinding light.

    When the girls ask what is happening to Lina, he tells them that Master Sneed awakened something within her. During his interrogation, the rogue magus revealed that he was merely a scholar of the arcane with no true magic of his own, but that he knew how to channel the powers of others, and has been kidnapping or purchasing children with arcane potential and feeding off of them until their minds were broken and they were useless to him, at which point he would sell them to his depraved clients or feed them to It.

    When Lucia asks where Sneed is now, Geomanthus dismissively says that he is hanging around somewhere, and the sister’s eyes dart to the various windchimes dangling from the ceiling of the wizard’s study.

    Geomanthus goes on to tell them that there was a dormant power within Lina’s soul, an inborn mastery of fire, and that legally he cannot allow her to remain within Meridia. When they ask if there is any way around this, he tells them that only his apprentices are allowed to operate within the city, and that he is not keen on taking the time to train the girl.

    Her sisters beg him to make an exception for her, and Geomanthus agrees on one condition. He takes them to the top of his lighthouse, which seems even taller from within, and shows them a dark spot on the mountains that can barely be seen on the horizon. He tells them that his magic cannot penetrate this place, and he needs a group of young adventurers to explore it for him and retrieve the artifact that he knows lies within.

    Corrigan tells them that he will take the three of them on as apprentices if they will serve as his agents in the wilderness, seeking out magical secrets for him until the day when their woodcraft is sufficient to reach The Pit and recover whatever forgotten magic lingers within, and bids them to bring Kithicore along.

    Liquade asks what he mans by all three of them, and is told that it was not just Lina who had a gift for magic, that she also had the potential to use sorcery to cloud the minds of men, and Corrigan can to teach her to use her powers to their fullest potential.

    Likewise, though Lucia has little in the way of spiritual power, she has an overabundance of chi, which he can teach her to harness for martial pursuits as well as teaching her how to transform her own bodily fluids into potent alchemy.

    Corrigan lectures Lina on the nature of magic, tells her that it is the language of the spirits that allows them to keep our eternal world ever-vibrant, and of the Goddess who stole the spirit’s fire and gave it to mankind, allowing them to make their own destiny. He states that in mortal hands magic could actually change the nature of reality, but if reality was bent too far it might break completely.

    He then describes the nature of harmony and discord, embodied by the twin goddesses Silanthous and Eris, and Lina pledged herself to the worship of Silanthous.

    In the coming weeks, Lucia spends a great deal of time in Fennic’s shop, much to his frustration, and begins to pick up some of the secrets of his trade.

    The group decides to take over the Smuggler’s Den as their base of operations, Liquaid calling dibs on the tea garden while Lucia claims Sneed’s chambers and the attached alchemy lab, leaving Lina to convert the barracks into a library of her own making.

    A fortnight later they are planning their next expedition at the Ostentatious Otter, and are able to pick up the following rumors from the other patrons:

    “The city lords had to know about what was taking place in the smuggler's tunnels. No way Geomanthus couldn't detect it. Probably their way of keeping rogue magic users off the streets. I only wonder who all was taking a cut?”

    “Once, these lands were all the domain of a dark and terrible power. It was vanquished long ago, but such evil never truly dies, and we should all pray that we don't live to see the day when it rises again.”

    “There once was a village in the forest. Sturdy walls and stout people, they held out against all the wild beasts and savage raiders. Then came the plague, and they found that swords were of no use against foes too tiny to strike. So, the people fell, and then the scavengers came in. And then, years later, when the village was found empty and abandoned and devoid of a name, squatters came. The only problem was, the scavengers had never left.”


    Spoiler: Commentary
    Show

    I left my previous, highly abusive, gaming group in early 2017, and then spend most of my free time reading OSR blogs and lets reads of RPG manuals and wishing I could game. I originally came up with this campaign on the drive back from Fear the Con in June 2017. It was originally supposed to be a sort of sandbox campaign, and I had no idea if or when I would ever run it. Then, almost a full year later, I found myself interviewing for a job in CO, and one of my old gaming friends who lived in the state told me he had a new group and wanted me to run a game for them immediately and, having nothing else to draw from, I went with this.

    Eventually the sandbox elements would be dropped as they were more trouble than they were worth and it became a more standard campaign, albeit one where I was experimenting with a lot of new ideas and using rules that were streamlined for simplicity.

    The original pitch to the players was simply that the campaign took place in the ruins around a city resembling a cross between medieval Venice and ancient Phoenicia and that they would all be members (by blood, marriage, or bonds of service) of one of the city's noble houses and this is what they gave me to work with.

    I was mostly improving the first session, but it went rather well if I do say so myself, well enough for the players to keep coming back every other week for a full year at least!
    Last edited by Talakeal; 2019-07-19 at 07:44 PM.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

  4. - Top - End - #4
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    Default Re: Campaign Diary - Heart of Darkness: The Daughters of Rojukan

    Session Two: Plague Wood Village
    There once was a village in the forest. Sturdy walls and stout people, they held out against all the wild beasts and savage raiders. Then came the plague, and they found that swords were of no use against foes too tiny to strike. So, the people fell, and then the scavengers came in. And then, years later, when the village was found empty and abandoned and devoid of a name, squatters came in. The only problem was, the scavengers had never left.

    The group arrives in the village at mid-morning on a drizzly gray day. The streets are not paved and are mostly mud, though some old wagon ruts are so deep that they still show through. Feral animals are abundant here, likely the descendants of domesticated livestock, as is a vast murder of crows. Lucia attempts to feed the crows and finds that, unlike most beasts, they do not fear her.
    In the center of town is an old slate well standing by a massive firepit. Upon closer inspection, the pit is full of a deep layer of wet ash and numerous charred bones, most of them human, lying just underneath the neatly corded wood. The wood is old enough to have swelled and desiccated over several seasons, but not old enough to have rotted away.
    The group decides to visit the public buildings before the domiciles. Their first stop is the town mercantile. A large circular sign lies in the mud outside of what one can only presume was once the general store. It is picked clean, and even the tile floor has been pried up. It is now empty save for a few wooden support beams and the remains of a family of rabbits, likely torn apart by feral dogs.
    The only notable find is a bottle of aged brandy hidden in the eaves, brewed by a distillery no one had ever heard of. Based on its location it was probably stashed by the shop-keep’s apprentice.

    An old mill, the walls creaking and cracked. Flour slowly falls from split bags on the upper floors and the wind makes odd sounds. The wheel is still, the stream that turns it having been blocked up by beavers two summers ago. The imprint of a large foot, clawed and with webbed toes, can be found in one pile of flour.

    A family of raccoons have transformed the tailor’s shop into a gaudy nest, a swamp of mismatched cloth and shiny objects from all over town. There might be something good inside, but it would take forever to get anything useful out of it. The group investigates the outside, pocketing a few shiny objects, but the only thing of value are some high-quality sewing tools.

    The schoolhouse was still mostly intact. Brightly colored mold covers the books and scrolls, leaving them illegible. A few tiny shoes and coats can still be found in the closet, and the old lessons are now permanently stained onto the chalkboard. Beneath the floor boards lie the bodies of a woman and three children, dead of suffocation in the dark.

    All that remains of the blacksmith’s shop is a few scorched beams and a muddy sump that resembles a peat bog.

    An old chapel. This small church has been the victim of deliberate sabotage, the stained-glass windows have been knocked out by rocks, the pews overturned, the fonts of holy water filled with filth, and the wooden statue of the Goddess has been covered with obscene graffiti.

    A very faded sign seems to proclaim the tavern to have once been called The Enchantress’ Cauldron. It is in disarray; it has obviously been looted long ago. The furniture is missing or smashed, the cellar has long since been emptied out. Someone used the kitchen very recently. They don’t appear to have been making food.

    The butcher’s shop is so old and dirty that one can’t tell where the bloodstains stop and the rust begins. There are only bones, and even these have long since been cracked open to get at the marrow. A thorough investigation reveals they have been broken open by tools but gnawed on by inhuman teeth. Some of the pig’s eye sockets feel as if they are watching. A bag of coins was hidden in a false shelf bottom.

    The town hall has collapsed. The bell has fallen from the tower and crushed the stairs beneath it. It might be valuable, but is too heavy to be moved. A ladder found in the alley behind the hall allows access to what remains of the roof, and from here a patch of smoke can be seen rising from the forest.

    A row of old peasant hovels hasn’t done will without maintenance, and their daub and wattle walls are more absent than not. There are signs of a struggle as well as a few leather casings that look to have once been used to launch some sort of crude alchemical bomb.

    A tall house with a sharply pointed roof, likely belonging to someone who enjoyed the finer things in life if the rotted curtains and tapestries are any indication. Judging by the old discarded trail rations and cut tinder it seems that someone recently camped here and moved on. A bit of graffiti that reads “Who’s afraid of the Big Black Wolf?” is carved into one wall.

    A small cozy cottage on the edge of town. Judging by the layout it looks like it was once the home of the local midwife, probably the closest thing they had to a real doctor. There are many jars of dried herbs, but they have been taken over by blight and it would require a madman or a miracle worker to get useful medicine out of them. Still, people seem to have given this place a wide berth and the furniture is still mostly intact.
    One cupboard is full of strange mist that quickly dissipates when exposed to open air.

    A large two-story home. A broken shutter constantly thumps, filling the house with eerie knocks and bangs, and a brief glimpse of a half seen figure out of the corner of her eye almost spooks Liquade into firing an arrow at her companions.

    A ranch house, the far wall buried in a veritable ocean of leaves. It is relatively dry inside and warmed by rotting compost. Each step drives a small stampede of centipedes and silverfish squirming out of the carpet. The owls in the barn watch intently and seem to have some sort of rivalry with the crows that inhabit the rest of the town. An old leather wallet engraved with the image of a pristine mountain lake is discovered under an old work bench.

    A leaning house, where the shadows slowly drift across the floor like dancers. While searching the house a Chon-Chon, or flying head, lunges out of a closet and attaches itself to Liquade’s throat. Her companions are able to tear it off and stomp it to death, but not before it inflicts several severe bite wounds. On the floor of the closet is an old wedding ring still attached to a fleshy hand.

    Having searched the village and found nothing but a few valuables missed by the scavengers, the Daughters of Rojukan decide to investigate the smoke in the forest. The find a recently raided caravan. Most of the foodstuffs as well as the bodies of the defenders have been taken, but many of the easier to transport valuables, including coins, are left behind at the site. Liquide tracks the attackers deep into a nearby swamp and finds two men and a woman, Kord, Dinaheir, and Glint, naked and bound to old stumps. They are wearing lots of jewelry and their skins have been daubed with muddy runes.

    The party frees them and demands the jewelry as payment for their rescue, which the hostages are happy to give. They suggest that they wash the mud off, and when Kord moves to a nearby pool to do so, something large disturbs the water, and a massive toad-dragon emerges. The creature is mostly amphibian, but larger than an elephant, with a whip-like tail, fearsome claws and teeth, and even stubby wings.

    Lucia pushes Kord back and moves to protect him, only to find herself wrapped in the creature’s barbed tongue. The venomous coating does little but numb her skin, and she fights fiercely to avoid being eaten, but cannot get a clean strike to cut herself free.

    Liquide and Liam fire several times at the beast but fail to penetrate its thick hide. Liam moves forward, risking falling and drowning in the quagmire, and drives his hammer down on the beast’s head, smashing its sinus and spraying the humans with blood, venom, and mucus. Having gotten the creature’s attention he slowly backs onto land, fighting defensively, so that Liquade and Lucia can flank the creature while Lina brings down balefire onto its slimy hide. Lucia exhausts herself trying to kill the beast, but in the end, it is Liam’s hammer that finally brings it down.

    The group is able to find a large amount of gaudy jewelry in the swamp, and they are sure that there is much more than they can’t get it beneath the muck, and Liquide is able to skin the unburnt portions of the amphibians hide to make a staggeringly effective filter.

    The survivors of the caravan are dressed in the group’s spare clothes while they explain that strange creatures came out of the mist and attacked their caravan. The living beings were taken to be sacrificed in the swamp, while the dead were carried along a different path. Liquide builds a blind for the prisoners to hide behind while they track down the rest of the attackers.

    They come to a village deep in the swamps inhabited by what Lina recognizes as Fauth, a semi-mythical race of amphibious humanoids with long heads, thick tails, and an affinity for fog. The group immediately attacks, hoping to press the element of surprise, and are met by only three warriors, large males with horns emerging from their slimy scalps.

    As the two groups clash the other fauth grab clubs and knives and move to encircle the invaders, and Lina conjures a half ring of fire around them. Liam is knocked to the ground, and Lucia attempts to ward off the encroaching villagers with wide careless swings of her great-sword, but as she slips in the muck her backstroke clips Liquide’s sternum, sender the elder sister down bleeding out in the mud.

    Liquide is still able to cloud the mind of one of the warriors, and with its help Lucia and Liam are able to slay the other two, while Lina animates burning swamp gas into a pair of blazing balls that move about and burn the rest of the attacking fauth to death.

    As Lina tends to Liquide’s wounds, Liam and Lucia move throughout the village, taking what treasures the remaining mothers and children possess. The village matriarch, an ancient crone with matted gray hair, emerges and speaks with them in broken Terran. The group tells them to leave, they will be returning with soldiers from Meridia soon. The matriarch tells them that her village is broken, they will not survive a trip through the wilderness, and by the time the children are ready to take up arms against the humans they will likely be long dead. In exchange for keeping the village secret, she shares a secret of her own, of a hidden complex beneath the house in the village with the pointed roof. She claims that her people found it some time ago, but the human raiders who dwelt within killed several fauth and forced the rest to retreat.

    The humans leave the fauth in the swamp and return to the village. They find the secret entrance, but decide not to breach it yet, instead placing a heavy stone table atop it to seal the entrance and return to Meridia with the prisoners.

    After healing up, the Daughters of Rojukan returns to open the secret passage. The area below is dark and covered with heavy dust and grime. The walls are crème colored masonry and though the place is obviously old and deserted it is not completely abandoned.

    A pool of silver liquid lies in front of the group, with narrow boards over it. Kithicore, who has been bored with the whole affair up until this point, begins to act intoxicated in its presence. As the group crosses, they see that the stone around the pool has started to actually fuse into black glass which climbs up the walls.

    The group moves through a shattered glass door into a large chamber with a faint glimmer of holy energy in the air and then on to a group of corridors to the left. They find a desiccated corpse and when they draw close the group begins to feel ill and bleed from their faces. Lucia tosses her lantern on the corpse and the group backs off.

    As they search the corridors, they find several syringes and alchemical devices as well as pools of long dried blood. They also find a safe that Liam is not able to open, adorned with an insignia they cannot identify. While working through the area the group sees and hears someone else lurking at the edge of the lantern light.

    In one room they find another corpse lying on a ripped mattress, and the bleeding and feeling of sickness returns. Unlike the first corpse, this one rises to its feet, an apparent zombie, and lurches forward. Liam and Lucia start to fight it, but then notice that it is somehow healing its wounds almost as fast as they can be inflicted, and the group falls back to the main chamber.

    Liam moves across the large corridor and discovers a great silver orrery, a hanging map of the solar system, and he recognizes over a dozen celestial bodies unknown to Meridia, but when he moves closer to inspect its workings he begins to bleed again and decides to move back.

    Lina and Liam want to leave, Liquide and Lucia want to continue. Lina cannot be moved, although she can be persuaded to part with her lantern while she hangs back in the main chamber, summoning a conflagration to light her surroundings and block off the corpse haunted side corridors. Lucia moves ahead, with Liam and Liquide following a good distance behind.

    The next large chamber has numerous rat’s nests made from smashed furniture and shredded paper. Among the detritus are several odd finds, smashed vials, odd powers, a three eyed doll, some stones with strange fey runes carved on them, and a small living tree somehow growing in the dark which Liquide is fairly certain is not native to the region. One side door is barricaded shut, the other leads into a library.
    The low shelves are empty, and though the paper is missing some of the covers are still lying on the floor, some titles are “Shards of Nephiroth, Fractured Mirrors, Treatise on Chaos, Aspects of a Chaotic Mind, Artifacts of the Necrotic, The Broken Arrow, Properties of Unliving Tissue, Precipices of Astral Existence, The Eighth Dimension, The Sixteenth School of Magic, Observations upon Eighty Herbs, The Five Chakras”
    Lucia will later take them to Corrigan Geomanthus who will proclaim that of those that he is familiar with, only one is actually of any worth, the others are all the products of hokey religions and mystery cults.

    The main hallway continues on a bit before being blocked off by a thin stone wall which Liam identifies as being supernatural, it was grown out of the floor and not the product of natural stone or human craftsmanship. A narrow hole has been chiseled out of its middle.

    Beyond lies an alchemical lab and a surgical theater, both very old and in bad shape. There are dead bodies here, three human and four fauth. Two fauth were bitten to death, one bled to death, and the fourth has no visible wounds.

    The main hall ends here. The leftmost corridor is covered in spider webs, which Liquide hesitantly inspects and identifies as those of the torpor spider, giant arachnids which are known for going into suspended animation and attacking people who violate their lair centuries after it was sealed. They find two such spiders, and when they approach, they burst, revealing themselves to be empty exoskeletons filled with hundreds of tiny hatchlings.

    Liquade retreats, while Lucia does her best to stomp and cleave the hatchlings, being bitten several times before Liam clears the rest using the flaming enchantment which Lina placed on his mace to allow him to see in the dark. Beyond they find several egg sacks, some hatched and some unhatched, and surmise that the hatchlings were disturbed by some of the fauth and then, having no source of food, fed upon their own sleeping parents.

    The still intact eggs are carefully wrapped up for transport to the markets of Meridia. A single zombie is in these corridors, trapped in webs, and the explorers fill it with arrows, throwing knives, and shotgun pellets. Only when it is thoroughly dead and dismembered do they approach and find its treasure, a great jade book written in an unfamiliar script with a golden flower emblem on the front.

    The right corridor contains a well, which likely is connected to the one in the town above as some sunlight filters down through the ceiling. There are several jars of tar and mercury, as well as some containing old chemicals and hunks of jade and amber. An old industrial incinerator is built into the wall and inside are a few scraps of parchment on which two letters can be made out.

    Spoiler: Letters
    Show
    My beloved Athaya,
    It’s gone bad. Really bad. At this point I am having doubts about the whole affair. I want out, I want nothing more than to come home to you, but I just can’t. If I give up now that means everything I have done, all of the work, all of the lives, it will all be for nothing.
    Of course, if I had known what that thing would have asked of me in exchange for the book, I never would have gone down this path in the first place.
    Meridia is ablaze with the Red Death. I have to persevere. I might be their only hope for a vaccine. If I succeed, I will have saved thousands, maybe millions. If I fail, well, the consequences should be contained.
    Succeed or fail, there isn’t much time left. If I triumph, we should be married in the Fall. If I don’t, well, just know that I loved you more than anything.
    Yours in life,
    Doctor Ignibard Oliss


    Most esteemed Professor Oliss,
    At first, I was reluctant to come all the way out here, but the Duke was rather insistent about the whole affair, and now I find myself rather pleased that I did. I grew up in a place like this, a small isolated town in the forest surrounded on all sides by adventure and the unknown. Of course, the most wonderful thing about the world today is that every town is a small isolated town in the forest surrounded on all sides by adventure and the unknown.
    You don’t really care about that? Do you? Well, down to business then. I was able to acquire the book for you, as well as the samples, and the necrotic cube. You will also notice an orb in with the others, one you didn’t ask for, and one you need not concern yourself with. Just understand that if you decide to back out on our deal it will be watching you, I will be watching you, and what happens then, well, I wouldn’t want to give away the surprise.
    Much Love,
    Abyad Alsadr
    Court-Magus to the house of Perceval



    After examining the area, the group moves back to the central hallway and unbarricade the door. Inside they find another series of corridors and side rooms, but once Lucia gets to the first junction, she finds herself surrounded by at least half a dozen undead. She quickly falls back and Liquide and Liam waste no time in making for the exit.

    The creatures stop momentarily at the edge of the main corridor, displaying that they have enough intelligence to remember the holy power that once permeated the area and to see that it no longer functions. This does give Liam enough time to cross the narrow bridge without slipping, and the group then pulls up the boards and takes a sample of the silver liquid.

    Lina attempts her strongest spell yet, an attempt to flood the complex with lava and purge the infection, but something goes wrong as she casts magic across the silver pool and the area begins to chill, so cold that the blood on her companion’s faces freezes solid. A moment later, great ice crystals erupt from the walls. The group barely makes it up the rime slicked stairs before the area behind them is frozen solid, and a blizzard buries the entirety of the Plague-Wood Village under thick drifts of snow.

    By the time they return to Meridia, a sample of the silver liquid has transformed its glass bottle into wood. Geomanthus can detect no magic in it, and Fennic claims it matches the chemical properties of no known element.

    Zarathustra identifies the jade book as a medical text written in cipher, the script is that of the lizard folk and the language is that of the ancient naga. It will take someone with a great deal more knowledge of medicine than Lina, or indeed anyone else in Meridia, possesses to make sense of it.

    The Daughters of Rojukan also travel to the Sacellum, a small shop which lies a bit off the beaten path, far from the main market, but is the closest thing Meridia has to a public library, as well as a trading house where books, both common and rare, are bought and sold.

    The lone librarian is Zarathustra, a scrawny and clean-shaven man in his late teens with a pony tail and wire framed spectacles. He is a chain smoker and always sweaty and feverish, but he has a great deal of knowledge about the goings on both within Meridia and the world at large.

    When Lucia shows the jade tome to him, he is able to identify the language as that of the lizard-folk and the script as that of the naga, but it is written in some sort of cipher which he is far too overworked to translate as he is solely responsible for copying over rotten tomes or those written in dead languages into something more useful. Eventually Lucia is able to convince him to do so in exchange for several literate slaves who can help him in his more mundane endeavors. What he comes back with is a medical text that is far beyond his or Lina’s understanding.


    Rumors:


    Duke Redborne is winning the war. Don't let the propaganda fool you. All the lands south of the river are his. It is only a matter of time before his forces take the city, and then the old guard will find themselves at the end of a rope. Make sure you know where your loyalties lie when that day comes.

    So, there is a story going around that some kids were out raising hell on the moors a fortnight ago when they saw a beautiful woman floating beneath the waters of a pond, staring serenely up at them. They ran home scared, but now some of the lads are out there thinking that just maybe it might be the Lady of the Lake handing out magical swords just like in the old stories. Fools. You want to put a stop to it?

    Totenfanger. No, don’t make me spell it. No, don’t correct my pronunciation either. I am trying to warn you. Maybe your parents already told you about it when you were kids, but I don’t think you believed. Granny Clank-Trap made it, but she can’t control it. Great big guy, all dead on the outside, but he still has work to do. If he catches you, clack-smack, right in his trap. And once he has you in his cage, he takes you off to do god knows what. I don’t want to find out, and neither do you!


    Spoiler: Comments
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    Our first real session. It went pretty well, although the divided attitude towards risk in the party, with Liquade and Lucia's players being overly reckless and Lina and Liam's players being overly cautious, first started to rear its head here, and would continue to create some OOC conflict throughout the campaign.

    Some readers will not that the second half of the adventure contains portions of the Complex of the Zombies micro-adventure by Justin Alexander. This is the only actual module in the entire campaign, although there are a few elements inspired by OSR blogs and "Let's read the monster manual" threads; this is because I was intrigued by the adventure that claimed to be able to make zombies scary in a heroic adventure RPG, and a friend had bet me that it didn't. In truth it actually worked a bit too well; the moment the zombies started healing the players noped the heck out of there rather than pressing on.
    Last edited by Talakeal; 2019-10-01 at 03:54 AM.
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    Default Re: Campaign Diary - Heart of Darkness: The Daughters of Rojukan

    Session Three: Totenfanger
    Totenfanger. No, don’t make me spell it. No, don’t correct my pronunciation either. I am trying to warn you. Maybe your parents already told you about it when you were kids, but I don’t think you believed. Granny Clank-Trap made it, but she can’t control it. Great big guy, all dead on the outside, but he still has work to do. If he catches you, clack-smack, right in his trap. And once he has you in his cage, he takes you off to do god knows what. I don’t want to find out, and neither do you!

    The group is not quite sure where they want to go for their next expedition, Lucia wishes to pursue the rumors of the Lady of the Lake being seen in the moors, while Liam wants to pursue the Totenfanger as it might be constructed from some lost technology that he can study and perhaps reverse engineer. As they are debating, Lina shows up with a strange boy.

    He is in his early teens, with broad black pupils and a malformed jaw. Lina tells the party that this is her new slave. Apparently he lost to her in a high stacks gambling match, and when she called his bluff she found out that he was practically penniless, and would be coming with her until he had paid off the two bags of gold that he owed her.

    The boy speaks in a thickly accented voice, made all the stranger by his deformed jaw, which he normally covers up with a black bandana. He introduces himself as Anabul, and states that he has grown up on orphan on the streets of Meridia all his life, always one step ahead of the rat-man. He knows how to get by on the streets, how to remain unseen, and how to steal to survive, but recently he has been pursued by strange figures in black robes, and he could never tell if they were men or ghosts.

    At this point he goes on to explain that he can see ghosts, as well as see in the dark, due to his eyes, and that he can hear the ghosts too. He shows them his only real possession, a seashell necklace, and claims that sometimes he can hear his mother’s voice speaking to him from within, though Lina doubts this claim.

    Lina purchases Anabul gear for his journey; traveling clothes, a new cloak and boots, a pair of daggers, a crossbow, and a magnificent suit of leather armor, all of which she assures him will be added to his debt.


    The group decides to find someone who can tell them more about the Totenfanger, and manage to track down an old militiaman, the only survivor of his patrol. He explains that the monster was allegedly built by the old witch of the wilds, Granny Clanktrap, and it is from this monster that she takes her title. It was used to kidnap people and bring them to her, but eventually she lost control of it and it now simply devours the souls of those who stand in its path. Now it wanders the wilderness in regular mechanical patterns, and he can show them how to find it, though he doesn’t think they will accomplish anything more than getting themselves killed.

    The Daughters of Rojukan set out into the wilderness with Anabul in tow, and Liam is able to construct a crude pit trap in what he believes to be the Totenfanger’s path. A few hours later they spot the monster, a decaying hulk nearly two stories tall, wearing a coat made from the still living skins of its victims, their tiny hands and jaws always grasping for the warmth of life. It holds a long chain in one hand, a crude bear-trap dragging on the end making a furrow in the mud.

    Upon seeing the Daughters of Rojukan, the monster charges straight towards them, soon becoming mired up to its waist in Liam’s pit. Lucia immediately charges the Totenfanger, but its chain-trap moves with a mind of its own and ensnares her, and then a moment later its coat draws open to reveal a large metal cage where its ribs should be. The bars snap shut, trapping Lucia inside with the constant moaning and wailing of the tiny faces sewn into the inside of its rotting coat.

    Liquade fires arrow after arrow into the creature, Liam engages it with his hammer, and Lina uses her magic to set it alight. Anabul, meanwhile, climbs onto its back and disables the mechanisms of the trap, freeing Lucia. Though she is sapped of all energy, she fights on with her sword until she literally passes out from exhaustion.

    Liam is next into the trap, and Anabul works to free him despite Liquade’s arrows whizzing past his head. Lina decides to change tactics and summons a third circle fire elemental named Kindlesnap and contracts the spirit to fan the flames that now engulf the rotting giant.

    Liam is eventually freed, but by then he is already drained. The effects of his life force upon the giant are profound, what was once a desiccated cadaver could now pass for something not more than a few hours deceased. It grabs Liquade next, but fortunately the giant succumbs to the fire before it can finish her off. Its pieces are still alive though, and there is talk about returning the creature’s head, still staring and mouthing unintelligible words, back to Meridia as a trophy, but instead they decide to simply toss the pieces into the smoldering pit and leave them under Kindlesnap’s care.



    Once Liam and Lucia regain consciousness, the group decides to head out into the wetlands. The first few days of their search are uneventful, but eventually they are able to find a woman living alone in a shack in the swamp, and when they question her about lying in a pond, she claims that she does sometimes commune with the water in such a manner.

    She introduces herself as Hyacinth, Witch of the Moors, and invites the travelers to come into her hut and share in her bland stew. She is a tall woman in her late twenties, with dour features, round cheeks, and lanky chestnut hair. Her demeanor is gloomy and pessimistic, and when the group asks her why she is so melancholy, she tells them of her dreary existence living alone in a hovel in the swamp.

    Lucia asks why she stays out here, and Hyacinth tells them that witches are banned from entering Meridia, and that this place’s energy suits her. Lina can indeed feel an unusual magical aura about this place, though she can’t quite identify it.

    Anabul hears the voice of his mother telling him to be on his best behavior, for the witch could be a powerful ally, and Anabul agrees, being overly polite to the woman’s face, but this does not stop him from rummaging through her cupboards and taking note of the strange alchemical specimens it contains when she is not looking.

    The Daughters of Rojukan ask what sort of services the witch provides, and she tells them that she has powers over water and the ability to sculpt flesh. Liquade’s mind starts to fill with images of all the exotic pets she can create, while pragmatic Lucia instead asks to share recipes for alchemical transmutations.

    They make no purchases today, but do promise to return in the future, and Lina leaves her with a gift; an enchanted log that will burn all winter long without being consumed.


    Rumors:

    The Synovial Current was asking about you. That’s all I know.

    Corrigan is up to something. Ever hear of a wizard who wasn't? He could take the city if he wanted it, but he is content to pretend to be Starspool's puppet. I wonder who he really is?

    Don't let the name fool you. Dragon Mountain hasn't seen a real wyrm in a thousand years. But it is home to many strange creatures, from the tiny kobolds that gnaw at its root to the giant eagles that roost at its peak. Still, I wonder how it got the name?


    Spoiler: Commentary
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    This week we see the introduction of a new player, providing a much needed fifth member to the group fulfill the empty “thief” archetype. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t be with us for very long do to OOC conflicts with the person who is hosting our game.

    He had a very unusual manner of playing his character, always talking and always acting impulsively. On one hand, this kept the game moving and got rid of the periods of indecision that so often plague my groups, on the other hand he frustrated the other players (sometimes including myself) by getting them into trouble without a plan or interrupting someone else’s serious moments.

    As the game dragged on, I became more conflicted about whether this was a good or a bad thing; whether he was getting the party into trouble to help move the story along or out of a sense trolling the other players, and whether he actually cared about keeping the game moving or he just got bored easily and always wanted to be in the spotlight, but it never got to the point where it would actually be an issue before he had to leave the group.
    Last edited by Talakeal; 2019-08-09 at 12:16 PM.
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    Default Re: Campaign Diary - Heart of Darkness: The Daughters of Rojukan

    Is this the same group with Bob and Brian? It seems like those threads were a lot more recent than 2 years ago.
    Quote Originally Posted by Red Fel, on quest rewards View Post
    "Is a stack of ten pancakes too many pancakes to give to the party, even if most of them fell on the floor and one or two were stepped on? I wanted to give my party pancakes as a reward but I'm unsure if it's too much. The pancakes are also laced with blowfish poison so the party would have to get an antitoxin before they could eat the ones which weren't pulverized by shoes."

    I don't think anyone would want those pancakes even if you paid them to eat them.

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    Default Re: Campaign Diary - Heart of Darkness: The Daughters of Rojukan

    Quote Originally Posted by The Glyphstone View Post
    Is this the same group with Bob and Brian? It seems like those threads were a lot more recent than 2 years ago.
    Yes.

    The campaign was originally designed as a sand box in summer of 2017 when I didn't have a group. I didn't actually find a gaming group and started playing in 2018.

    The game is still on-going, and will likely last until we wrap up in November.
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    Default Re: Campaign Diary - Heart of Darkness: The Daughters of Rojukan

    ...The Daughters of Confucian Teacher Lu? (魯儒官)

    Edit:
    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    The Daughters of Rojukan also travel to the Sacellum, a small shop which lies a bit off the beaten path, far from the main market, but is the closest thing Meridia has to a public library, as well as a trading house where books, both common and rare, are bought and sold.
    The shop is called "Chapel"? Hmm, I smell a plot hook.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    The lone librarian is Zarathustra, a scrawny and clean-shaven man in his late teens with a pony tail and wire framed spectacles. He is a chain smoker and always sweaty and feverish, but he has a great deal of knowledge about the goings on both within Meridia and the world at large.
    Can't trust anyone named after a Nietzschean mouthpiece.


    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post

    Totenfanger. No, don’t make me spell it. No, don’t correct my pronunciation either. I am trying to warn you. Maybe your parents already told you about it when you were kids, but I don’t think you believed. Granny Clank-Trap made it, but she can’t control it. Great big guy, all dead on the outside, but he still has work to do. If he catches you, clack-smack, right in his trap. And once he has you in his cage, he takes you off to do god knows what. I don’t want to find out, and neither do you!
    Death-catcher? Corpse-taker? Sounds ominous and appropriate.

    (Or maybe it's Deathfinger, but that doesn't fit as well.)
    Last edited by NNescio; 2019-08-13 at 05:02 AM.
    Quote Originally Posted by kardar233 View Post
    GitP: The only place where D&D and Cantorian Set Theory combine. Also a place of madness, and small fairy cakes.

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    Default Re: Campaign Diary - Heart of Darkness: The Daughters of Rojukan

    Quote Originally Posted by NNescio View Post
    ...The Daughters of Confucian Teacher Lu? (魯儒官)

    Edit:

    The shop is called "Chapel"? Hmm, I smell a plot hook.



    Can't trust anyone named after a Nietzschean mouthpiece.




    Death-catcher? Corpse-taker? Sounds ominous and appropriate.

    (Or maybe it's Deathfinger, but that doesn't fit as well.)
    Glad to see someone is reading these!

    I am not very good at naming people, so mostly I just take historical or literary figures who have cool sounding names and change the spelling, although for most of them there is some sort of symbolism in the name chosen.

    Totenfanger was supposed to literally translate is "Jailor of Corpses" but its been twenty years since I took German so I am sure that isn't quite right, but I don't bother correcting things like that to give terms more of a fantasy feel!
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    Default Re: Campaign Diary - Heart of Darkness: The Daughters of Rojukan

    Session Four: Dragon Mountain
    Don't let the name fool you. Dragon Mountain hasn't seen a real wyrm in a thousand years. But it is home to many strange creatures, from the tiny kobolds that gnaw at its root to the giant eagles that roost at its peak. Still, I wonder how it got the name?

    The first day of the expedition is uneventful. The group makes camp for the night in the foothills of Dragon Mountain, and Lucia falls into a terrible dream, a single moment of sudden betrayal, the pain and shock not fading, repeated endlessly for hours. She awakes to another shock, a low rumble in the earth that precedes a rock slide. She is able to shout out a warning, and the group is able to avoid being buried alive, suffering only minor injuries, the most severe of which requires one of Anabul’s legs be put in a splint while he recovers.

    The next morning is taken up by a long hike up the mountain. Along the trail, a traveler wearing the hat of a troubadour is encountered, one who claims to be the last survivor of an expedition to the mountain. Anabul gets a bad feeling towards the man and rebuffs him rudely, at which point he tries to intimidate the party by accusing them of being spies for Duke Redborne, but the group is unimpressed and sends the apparent conman on his way.

    As they continue their ascent, the travelers spy a group of large eagles chasing a much larger creature, which Liquide identifies as a wyvern, away from the mountain. They seem exceptionally large, but it is impossible to accurately gauge size at this distance without a frame of reference. It is surmised that the wyvern might be where the mountain got its name.

    After a period of searching, they find the entrance to a tunnel into the mountain, a great brass seal, engraved and shaped like a large coin more than two meters in diameter. It is on an ancient track which appears to have been recently forced open and several rocks wedged into the gap to keep it from closing. Liam is able to tinker with the door’s mechanisms to keep it permanently open and Anabul squeezes through the narrow gap.

    Anabul moves through several tunnels and finds several groups of small humanoids. The small, scaly, green creatures are armed with spears and distracted by their bickering. Anabul returns to the group and explains what he saw, but nobody in the group is familiar with kobolds and decides that they must be goblins.

    The group moves in, with Anabul scouting ahead and, eager to prove himself, he attempts to dispatch the kobolds in the dark. Unfortunately, their night vision is every bit as good as his own, and a moment later he is retreating to the main group and falls at their feet, curled up in pain with several tiny spears stuck in his back. A moment later, the group is surrounded and gets rather beaten up by the screeching horde, with even Liam suffering a few wounds before Lina can divide their numbers with a wall of fire.

    The kobolds on this side of the wall are dispatched while those on the far side slink away to consult with their shamans. The group mends their wounds and, once the fire dies out, they discover and do their best to seal up several small side passages which are impassible to a grown human.

    Eventually, they find what was once a great antechamber. A pair of stylized jade statues resembling spirit dragons stand at the end of what were once twin reflecting pools, now filled with sand and silt. As Lina enters, the room dormant geothermal vents spring to life, filling the room with warm steam that gives the dragon statues the appearance of exhaling smoke. Several kobolds snipers use the mist to conceal their approach before ambushing the humans, sending a volley of crossbow bolts their way before retreating into their warrens.

    The group decides not to pursue them, instead traveling upwards. They leave the tunnels and travel along a windswept overlook with a great view of the surrounding lands, as well as the coming storm. At one point, Liam steps on what seems to be a deliberate trap and is sent tumbling down the mountainside, although his armor absorbs most of the damage when he lands on a ledge some ten meters below, and the group is eventually able to lower a rope for him to climb back up despite his heavy armor.

    Further up, the path forks and the group takes the lower path that curves around the mountain after seeing what appear to be the footprints of human children alongside those of large clawed creatures. They find a village under a ledge stone overhand, guarded by a half dozen Dragas, hulking creatures that resemble a cross between a two-meter humanoid and a terrible winged dragon. Their leader, a large albino warrior, approaches the party menacingly.

    The group attempts diplomacy and finds that the creatures speak Terran. They explain that they are here on a mission of curiosity and request that the Dragas allow them to take shelter in their village for the duration of the storm. The Dragas give them use of a lean-to, but explain that they have no food to spare. Anabul offers them gifts, but Lina chastises him for such wasteful generosity.
    They notice several human children amongst the Dragas, who do not seem to be enslaved or abused. Later in the night a young girl named Kerisdale tells them that she was sent to satisfy their curiosity. They ask where her parents are and she tells them that they were killed by raiders. The party assumed that the Dragas killed her parents and abducted her, but she explains that she has lived here all her life, and that her parents were killed centuries ago by human bandits far from here.

    When questioned about how it could have been centuries, she reveals that she is one of the Terro, an ageless race of eternal children, and that she is nearly sixteen centuries old. The Dragas are worshippers of Hyperion who have lived here for time immemorial. The Terro once dwelt in a large city by the river, but were wiped out by a manargus swarm eons ago, and came to the mountain as refugees, though due to their long life spans they would eventually become the archivists and caretakers of the dragas. The dragas are dwindling in number, each generation smaller than the last, and they know that their decline will never be reversed, and the old city, a great fortress monastery, has been abandoned for this humble village.

    When asked about the ancient times, she tells them that the leader of the Dragas ascended to sainthood, leaving the mortal world behind to become a member of the tribunal, but when the mortal world needed him he would bind himself to the king of the Terro, a great holy warrior, and thus would the alliance between the two people be forged. The king was lost when he attempted to use his mastery over time to retroactively save his people, but instead prevented his own existence, and thus became one with the Abyss, Hajah the unborn.

    When asked about the mountain, she says that an aerie of ethon, or giant eagles, is located near the peak and numerous kobold warrens are found beneath the mountain. The dragas periodically cull the kobold population, but cannot enter the tunnels to wipe them out for good. A large serpentine monster has recently come to inhabit the area near the old city, and in the last few decades both the dragas and the ethon have suffered many losses from the beast, particularly when it raids their nests and devours their eggs. Neither side can risk engaging the beast, the losses would be to great, and the dragas are too proud to ask the eagles for an alliance.

    The group weathers the storm in the Dragas village, sharing what little food they can spare with Kerisdale and in the morning ask the draconic warriors for help slaying the egg-stealer, making sure to appeal to their ego. The dragas are suspicious at first, wondering why those who come to the mountain seeking knowledge now wish to kill a monster, but Lucia is able to dispel their fears as well as assure them that they need ranged support rather than close combat troops.

    The group moves to the old city with the dragas flying overheard. The dragas call out that the monster is coming for them a split second before it comes barreling down the slope at them, turning sideways at the last moment and skidding to a stop on the muddy trail, bowling everyone but Lina down the mountain slope. The rest come to a stop in the mud below.

    The egg stealer is a yowie, a great twelve-legged serpent that is distantly related to true dragons. As it moves to swallow Lina, the lone girl panics and caster her strongest spell yet, coating her body in living fire. The yowie is momentarily confused, giving Lina’s companions time to get to their feet and climb up the mud-slicked rocks.

    Lucia is the first to reach the monster, but as she moves to stab it the yowie it unleashes a powerful jolt of electricity, scorching Lucia and knocking her into unconsciousness. Before it can devour her, Anabul swiftly moves between them and jams his daggers to the hilt on the soft inside of the creature’s mouth, wounding it badly. It loses nerve and backs away, giving Liam time to draw his shotgun and Liquide her bow, while the dragas move around to encircle it and pelt it with javelins. The beast attempts to summon electricity, shocking those who near it, but it is no use, and the massive creature is soon brought down under a hail of projectiles and quietly expires from blood loss.

    The dragas are invited to butcher the beast’s body, and while the companions seek to bring its head to the ethon they find it is far too large to carry, and instead settle for its eyes. Liquide takes the teeth to make arrow heads with.

    Within the old city, they find some treasures, most too large or dilapidated to make transport back to Meridia economical, but they are allowed to take what they can carry, the dragas have no use for treasure. They find numerous old runes, and though Kerisdale can translate a few of the symbols she can only give the literal meaning, explaining that ancient draconic is a symbolic language and the context of the writing has been lost; Liquide takes rubbings in case she ever finds a sage who can translate them.

    The most unusual find is a three-meter sword of such a quality that Liam cannot even comprehend how it might have been crafted. Lina gets a feeling of dread about it; the blade appears to be under a terrible curse. They decide it is not worth the risk and let it lie.

    The group takes the eyes to the eerie and offers them to the ethon. The ethon are grateful that their nests are safe, but are extremely wary, particularly of Lucia. When she speaks, they tell her not to approach, and wonder how she is alive, to their eyes she is nothing but a rotting sack of meat that is somehow still walking around. They tell Liquade that they would honor the ancient pacts and carry her in times of emergency, but will not permit her companions to touch them.

    The group asks for knowledge of magical sites and monsters in the area, and the eagles give them brief descriptions, though it is tough getting much concrete information, the eagles do not speak much Terran, have a somewhat alien mindset, and see the world from a bird’s eye view. They lack knowledge of human architecture and fail to understand how to describe most structures. The group also gleans that the eagles believe themselves to be messengers for the gods of Olympus and believe all of their actions to be dictated by a sacred duty written on their hearts by the Sky Father.

    The ethon are glad to see their haunted visitors off, and one of them quickly flies north once they are gone. The group then decides to return to Meridia and sell their treasures, the journey back is uneventful.
    Back in Meridia, Lucia asks Corrigan about her psychological scarring, and he explains that her soul is nothing but a ragged shred, sustained only by her abundant Chi. The magus theorizes that any attempt to teach her true sorcery would plunge her immediately into Quiet. He has no idea what might have caused such a malady.


    The World’s Edge
    This is the finest sword ever created. Fashioned by a coalition of legendary wonderworkers during the Mesozoic Wars. It was tempered in the heart of Limbo and quenched in the Abyss itself. It was wielded by Hyperion’s champion for eons before eventually falling into the hands of the enemy. Legend holds that when the Tribunal attempted to reclaim, it they were prevented from doing so by Silanthous, Goddess of Magic, who lay a terrible curse on the blade that amplifies their own feelings of guilt to maddening levels. It has rested in the ancient mausoleum at Dragon Mountain ever since.

    This is a +6 quality blade that is so large it extends the bearer’s reach by one meter. It appears to be made out of some form of platinum. Until the curse is broken, it inflicts a point of psychic damage each time it is swung, and even touching the blade or carrying it in one’s pack brings about maddening visions of the atrocities its bearer has committed and the apocalyptic ramifications that could result.

    Rumors:

    Most people think humans rule the world. That's not quite how it is. We actually share this land with many other species, all who claim to be its masters. Why don't we see them? Well, humans like to stick to places that favor humans, and they do the same for their species, so even though our empires lie on top of each other, more often than not we pass like ships in the night.

    They say that only one person ever sailed all the way to the head of the river, a hero even greater than your grandfather. But that was long, long, ago.

    Those who remember the old mill just call it the Bolt Hole now. No one knows how it happened. Maybe the rats were always there, breeding in the walls. Maybe they dug into a basement. Or maybe someone let them in. Either way, it's all rats now. Not even worth the trouble of trying to salvage something that they ain't torn up to make their nests.


    Commentary:
    This session went pretty well. I felt kind of bad beating Anabul up with the kobolds, he didn't quite understand the rules and how difficult it was to kill them all without being seen in this system. I appreciated that they actually talked to enemies and made allies in this session, they would come in very handy in the future... but of course two sessions later it would all go horribly horribly wrong.
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    Default Re: Campaign Diary - Heart of Darkness: The Daughters of Rojukan

    Session Five: The Bolt Hole
    Those who remember the old mill just call it the Bolt Hole now. No one knows how it happened. Maybe the rats were always there, breeding in the walls. Maybe they dug into a basement. Or maybe someone let them in. Either way, it's all rats now. Not even worth the trouble of trying to salvage something that they ain't torn up to make their nests.

    The Daughters of Rojukan are returning home after an evening drinking and gambling when they notice they are being followed by a group of footpads. While crossing a narrow footbridge bridge, three men appear on the far side and demand a toll. As both groups posture, the men who were following the heroes move in from behind to box them in. Anabul tries to talk to them in street jargon, and is told that if they want to live, they just have to pay up, but Lucia grows tired of the negotiations and charges into combat.

    Lina cuts off one group with a wall of fire and Liquide clouds the minds of the thugs on the far side, forcing them to kill each other. A few moments later, the only survivor is a single thief who is confused and panicked about having just murdered his friends. The heroes let him live. On the bodies they find a bag of coins which are coated in a mysterious slime.

    A week later the group leaves the city on an expedition to the Bolt Hole. After a few hours they stop for a meal. Anabul is going to get water, when a gigantic amoeba attempts to engulf him. He runs back to the group and Lina conjures a ball lightning and orders it to drive the amoeba away while the group moves on.

    The next morning, they find a small girl, about four years old with strawberry blonde hair. She informs the group that her parents abandoned her for letting the dog out when there was a bandersnatch nearby. She lives in a small town nearby, but is unable to give any specifics. Her dress and hands are stained with berry juice which Liquade identifies as having soporific properties. She says that her name is also Lucia. The group decides to bring her back to Meridia under the care of their servants.

    During their second journey to the mill, they are accosted by a pack of ghouls, gaunt humanoids with grey skin, yellow eyes, and shark-like teeth. The travelers are told that they are passing through the domain of the swamp king, and if they want safe passage one of their number must be given over as tribute. When this is refused, the ghouls say that each traveler may instead donate one limb, an offer which is, of course, also refused. The ghouls tell them that they will be watched and depart.

    The next morning, they awaken to find a muscular man with the head of a dog sitting with them near the embers of their camp fire. Anabul notices him first and offers him tea, which he politely laps up, while trying to awaken the rest of the group. Once the rest of the party has awakened the visitor announces that he is Kai of the Black-Paw gnolls. He has been sent to count coup, and in order to join the elite warrior society known as the Sons of Sharish he must find and defeat a human champion, and wonders if there is any among them who might be a worthy opponent. Lucia immediately accepts.

    Kai draws a circle and announces that the spirits will officiate. If either fighter leaves the circle, or an outsider enters, the match is over. Lucia is outclassed and appears to be losing the battle, but she refuses to yield, and eventually she lands a lucky blow that cleaves through the gnoll’s bone breastplate and opens his ribcage, killing him almost instantly.

    The rest of the group was too focused upon the fight to see that they have become surrounded by ghouls who take the opportunity to attack. Lucia is too exhausted from her duel to be of much use, and the group sustains heavy injuries before driving the ghouls off. They decide to put the expedition on hold for the time being and return once again to Meridia.

    Once the group has healed up and resupplied, they again make their way for the old textile mill. This time Liquade guides them through the wilderness without incident.

    As they approach the old mill what appears to be a pack of wild dogs emerge from the porch and lopes toward them. As they draw closer, the dogs reveal themselves to actually be huge rats. The Daughters of Rojukan are able to dispatch them without injury, mostly thanks to Liquide and Anabul’s archery and a column of fire conjured by Lina.

    Liquide analyzes the bodies and discovers that they are the same species as ordinarily rats, merely bred for exceptional size, speed, and ferocity. They are wearing spikes collars with simple names carved into them. Their lair under the porch shows no signs of an owner or food, but lots of offal and numerous bones, a few of which might be human.

    The main floor of the mill is empty. Motes of dust float in the dreary light that manages to penetrate the dirty windows. The work floor has room for numerous workers and much textile machinery lies about the area in disuse. Rats are everywhere, along with their nests and droppings. It appears that this place has been abandoned for a decade at the very least. Footsteps and scratching can be heard from above.

    They find numerous offices and apartments upstairs, all in disrepair. Footsteps can still be heard, but their source cannot be found. Eventually, a very old man is found wandering about, his work clothes tattered, his beard wild, and his eyes unfocused with madness or dementia. He ignores the group and when Lucia attempts to grab him, he begins to shake and appears to be having a seizure, but when Lina moves forward to help him, he vomits forth a tide of young rats upon her. Horrified, Lucia attacks him and Liquade begins to stomp on the rats. A moment later they are joined by three more men, all in similar condition, and a fight breaks out.

    After killing the men, they find that much of their bodies’ interiors have been eaten away and now serve as nests for rats. The men appeared to be alive, not undead, and nobody is quite sure how or why they came to be in this condition.
    The top floor contains what appears to be the foreman’s office, with a massive desk that has only mostly gone over to rot. A portrait of a man can be seen on one wall, a gruesome figure with a sharp suit, cloak, and can, sagging pudgy cheeks, greasy black curls, small beady eyes, and a pronounced unibrow. A safe is found behind the picture, and while Anabul is busy cracking the combination all eyes are upon him, none notice the gruesome rat-king sliding out of a secret door behind them.

    The rat-king is nearly the size of a grizzly bear, although far more limber, rat-like save for the great curling horns atop its brow and the vast bat’s wings that extend from its shoulders. When Anabul turns to show the group the bulging bag of coins that he found in the safe, he meets its gaze and before he can cry out its grabs his head with one massive paw coated in coarse hair, and yanks him back into the darkness.

    The rest of the group reacts slowly, and what follows is a brief but vicious scrabble in the dark. It could go either way until Lina sets the rat-king alight with hellfire and it quickly makes its way back into the darkness, seeking the safety tunnels which are hidden in the walls.

    Having scoured the top floors, but group is unwilling to enter the secret passages that the rat-king fled down as it will force them into a single file and without room the fight. The group returns to the mill floor and begins exploring the store rooms, which have become like a labyrinth of tunnels between the rat’s nests built out of the mountains of unused cloth that was once the mill’s inventory.

    Eventually, when they are deep into the stacks and all but lost, the rats close in upon them, their red eyes and saliva moistened teeth glittering in the dark. As if motivated by an unheard signal they descend as a mass. The swarm engulfs Liam first, but is unable to pierce his armor. Liquade is injured in the initial onslaught when a few particularly large and tenacious rodents crawl into her boots. Lucia and Anabul do their best to avoid the mass and kill the individual rats that encompass it, but they do little to the swarm as a whole. Eventually, Liam falls and the rats begin to crawl into his armor at which point Lina once again saves the day, unleashing a brief inferno that kills many of the smaller creatures and dissipating the swarm.
    In one corner of the supply house, the stairs to the basement are found. Anabul goes ahead, down the rickety staircase and finds a group of rat-like humanoids that wear clothes, wield steel weapons, and speak to one another in a broken from of Terran. Rather than parlay or engage, Lina decides to attempt to exterminate them, conjuring a spreading pool of lava that slowly fills the concrete lined basement. Liam moves to block the rat-folk’s exit by talking a defensive position at the top of the stairs, but they never come, instead fleeing deeper below.

    When the group begins to feel uncomfortably warm, they decide to move further up, only to find the mill above them blazing with fire, presumably one which started spontaneously as a result of all the invocation energy which Lina was channeling into the place. The group feels that all hope is lost, but Lina is able to cast a jaunt spell which allows them to use the fire as a doorway and exit the mill. From a safe distance, they watch the streams of rats flee the building as it burns to its foundations.

    The next morning, they sift through the ruins and find a number of previously hidden entrances to the sub-basement. After journeying down into the tunnels, they are attacked by a trio of gruagach, gigantic flabby mole rats devoid of hair or eyes and with extremely long claws. Liquide uses her supernatural charms as well as her command of animals to force them to devour one another as her companions pierce them with their weapons.

    In one side room the group finds a number of vivisected humans, only recently dead. The manacles used to imprison them are far larger and sturdier than necessary.

    In another side room, they find a shrine with a somewhat valuable brass idol. It is guarded by a pair of humanoid rats, significantly larger and more feral than the others, who attack without hesitation, seemingly in a rabid frenzy. They are nearly impervious to harm, but are brought down after many blows, their bodies appearing to shrink upon death. Anabul’s mother warns him to get his wounds properly washed out when he returns to Meridia.

    The group then decides to go deeper down, into what appear to be natural caverns that have been connected to the sub-basement. Eventually, the ground becomes crunchy with large black coffin beetles, and Lina decides to stay behind. The rest of the party goes on without her, Anya, clinging to Lucia’s back, as they come to the edge of a subterranean lake, likely fed by the river above. A rickety old boat can be seen on the far shore, and all around it beetles shift like a living carpet, ranging in size from those that could fit on a pin-head to that of a medium size dog.

    Something is seen moving in the darkness, and a long serpentine head darts out from a previously unseen island in the middle of the lake and quickly devours one of the large beetles. There is a brief flash of huge size and a thick bony carapace, and the group decides to backtrack.

    Meanwhile, Lina has been in hiding from the rat-king, which has emerged from the mole rat nest and is following the group’s trail, making clicking batlike noises to see in the dark. When the rest of the group returns, there is another brief skirmish and the rat king again attempts to flee, but Liquide is able to slow its movement long enough for Liam to bring his maul upon the creature’s horned head, stunning it while Lucia and Anabul finish it off for good.
    The group them decides to enter the nest of the gruagach. At the end, they find the hideous rat-queen, a massively bloated creature larger than a prize bull, totally blind and legless, its gravid body covered in bloated teats and writhing blind young, biting and clawing at each other in the dark.

    Liquade fires an arrow at the creature and it shrieks in pain, drawing more mole rats from the numerous side tunnels. Lina envelops the massive creature in a storm of fire, but it is slow in dying, being far beyond the point where it can feel pain. Massive mole rats swarm the party and though they do their best to fight them off the group goes down one by one.


    Eventually the mother creature succumbs to the flames and with her death the remaining young scatter. Liam and Anya are the only one’s left standing, and Liam is badly wounded. They are able to drag their companions to a secure location and staunch the bleeding before Liam passes out from blood loss.


    The next morning the injured companions are able to sift no few valuable trinkets from the ashes of the mill and the gore piles of the gruagach nest before limping their way back to Meridia.


    Rumors:
    There was once a town by a river. Long gone now. But the sewers and catacombs beneath, well they were quite a marvel of engineering, staying dry on such sodden ground, and all manner of things have taken up residence in them. A tribe of cannibalistic trolls being the least terrible among them.

    They say he was once the sheriff of a small berg not far from here. He did horrible things, said he was protecting the good common folk from the wrong kind of people, if you know what I mean, but that was no excuse for what he done. They tarred and feathered him when they found out, his horse to, but they didn’t stop there. They burned him alive, and then buried him in the ground. But the ground wouldn’t take him and spit him right back out. Petrichor I think they called him, blood of the earth, and if he is still out there, I wouldn’t want to cross his path in the dark of the night.

    Most people think humans rule the world. That's not quite how it is. We actually share this land with many other species, all who claim to be its masters. Why don't we see them? Well, humans like to stick to places that favor humans, and they do the same for their species, so even though our empires lie on top of each other, more often than not we pass like ships in the night.


    Commentary:
    Pretty straightforward session. The main dungeon obviously took more than a little inspiration from Stephen King's Night Shift.

    My only concern was that the party was starting to abuse rest mechanics, repeatedly returning to town over the course of the session. This would continue to get more extreme until I would eventually abandon the sandbox format entirely, but at this point it was still just a mild concern.

    The poop really hits the fan next session though!
    Last edited by Talakeal; 2019-08-23 at 04:20 PM.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

  12. - Top - End - #12
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    Default Re: Campaign Diary - Heart of Darkness: The Daughters of Rojukan

    Session Six: River Crossing Sewers
    There was once a town by a river. Long gone now. But the sewers and catacombs beneath, well they were quite a marvel of engineering, staying dry on such sodden ground, and all manner of things have taken up residence in them. A tribe of cannibalistic trolls being the least terrible among them.


    On the way to River Crossing, Lina is approached by a group of sprites in the dark. Impressed that she could see them, they take her to an ancient cyclopean ruin where several other children are dressed in their bedclothes. The fairies instruct these children, all of whom have supernatural talents, to play a game of magic where they would attempt to counter one another’s spells in a strategic fashion. Despite her single-minded magic, Lina does quite well at the game and earns several periapts as a reward before being returned to her group in the morning.
    The next day the group hears barking in the swamp and follows it to an old billabong where they see a family of Bunyips being attacked by an especially large beast of Shadow Fang, a great two-headed turtle monster. A single young bunyip remains, but it is tenaciously defending the bodies of its kin.

    The Daughters of Rojukan approach and, as they discuss what to do, the turtle turns on them with surprising speed. It is unable to pierce Liam’s armor, but it attempts to rend him to pieces and is only saved when the beast’s heads appear to quarrel with one another and drop him. The creature’s shell is too thick for the group’s weapons to pierce until Lina enchants them, at which point the monster is driven back into the water.

    Liquade is able to soothe the last bunyip and coax it into travelling with her. She names it Puma.

    The town of River Crossing is old and dilapidated, but a single tavern stands mostly intact. The group decides to use it as a base camp, but find it already occupied by a cockatrice and two hens. The small chimera are quickly defeated, but not before Lina is bitten and paralyzed. The group makes camp here and waits for the venom to wear off. In the cellar they find several casks of vinegar and a few bottles of finely aged wine.

    When they are ready to explore the sewers, they find an entrance on the side of a canal, guarded by four trolls standing under a bridge. Lucia attempts to parley with them while Lina remains in hiding. She attempts to convince the trolls to leave, threatening them with military retribution. One troll casually climbs onto the bridge and, in a move that is both condescending and tactical, places his hand upon Lucia’s head to keep her sitting, and explains that they would love a military incursion into the sewers. The humans would be blind, lost, and paralyzed the poisonous creatures that live below. When asked if the trolls eat humans, they say that they do, but not until after the Grand Maw gets a cut.

    Lucia then tells them they should relocate to Dragon Mountain, where there is much more food and fewer humans. The trolls agree to take them to their leader, a bone-witch named Mytilidae. They drag the four humans into the sewers and through the dark and the wet, keeping a quick pace so that no one can get their bearings. Several times they slip in the mud and water or feel slimy tentacles grasping at them, but the trolls do not stop until they get to the central chamber.

    The Daughters of Rojukan explain their plan to Mytilidae, who tosses the bones and says that the spirits proclaim that the trolls can only prosper on the mountain with the human’s help, but to beware of treachery. The trolls ask if they will agree to help the trolls secure the mountain and take a blood oath before Yuggoth not to spill any troll blood while on the mountain. When it is agreed, the trolls drag them to the edge of a great pit into which many streams of foul water flow and stop them at the edge. Anabul, who has some ability to see down, identifies it as a cistern.

    The humans and trolls mix blood and drip it into the pit. The trolls then gather their belongings and prepare to leave, tossing golden dinnerware into the pit as an offering to Yuggoth and as a token of their thanks. Liam tosses his pocket watch in. Anabul asks his mother what this Yuggoth is and is told that it is the daughter of his mother’s daughter’s daughter yet to be born, and that he should not concern himself with it.

    On the trail to Dragon Mountain Anya is distracted by something shiny off the trail and returns with a penny.

    That night they smell wood smoke and Liquade is able to track it to a small cave with sixteen young armed men inside. They invite the companions in, but when they see the trolls they try and act nonchalant and ask the travelers to move on. The young men say they are leaving Meridia to seek their fortune in other lands, but Anabul is able to deduce that they are outlaws. He talks to them in his cant and finds out that Meridia is no longer safe, that with the threat of Duke Redborne taxes are higher than ever but security is at an all time low with so many conscripts being sent across the river, and thus they have decided it is safer to live outside of the law. The group gives them a head start, allowing them to flee into the night before sending the trolls after them, while the humans devour the rations that were left behind.

    At Dragon Mountain, the kobold warrens fall easily, most simply fleeing rather than let themselves be eaten by trolls. The trolls complain that the kobolds are insufficient food, but split what meager loot they find. Most of the kobold warrens are inaccessible to humans, let alone trolls, the tunnels being either fully collapsed or simply too small. They do find one interesting room, an alchemical laboratory that seems to be sized for giants. It is very old, but Lucia is able to find a few useful reagents. There are a number of bronze and glass cylinders which contain leather blue spheres. Most are rotted near to dust, but one is burst open from the inside. Three are still intact. Lucia opens one and finds an embryonic creature inside that resembles a tiny dragon, it dies within moments. The other two are packaged to be sent to Geomanthus to see if he can hatch them.

    The group attempts to convince the trolls to stay on the lower levels in the kobold warrens, but the trolls declare that there is not enough room or food for them here. Things grow tense, but when the Dragas force the issue by sending a raiding party down the mountain and attacking the trolls, the humans decide to defend their new-found allies and together they are able to slay the dragas easily. The trolls plunder the dragas’ village and finish off the non-combatants, dragas and terro alike. Only Lucia and Anabul are willing to take part in the gruesome feast that follows, although the entire party is willing to take a share of the gold.

    Mytilidae is very pleased with the results, and proclaims that Kerisdale’s bones are the most powerful tools that she has ever owned. The two warbands exchange oaths of friendship and mutual protection and the trolls extend a standing offer to accompany them on raids of the surrounding lands. They decide to leave the great eagles in peace.

    While the trolls are looting and fortifying the old city, the Bone Witch declares the great sword to be the worst juju and off limits. Lina attempts to goad Lucia into picking it up, and while they squabble, Anabul decides to grab the sword himself. His knees buckle and his eyes roll all the way back in his head, exposing the whites for the first time as his mind is filled with visions of the ultimate horror dripping down upon the earth from behind the quiet sky and slowly and painfully devouring him and all of his kind.

    Lucia quickly grabs the sword from him and places it back on the bier. She is not harmed, but instead receives a vision of a great demonic creature with shifting features composed of endless teeth and burning red eyes, its flesh made from her own dried blood. It is overpowering the silhouette of a man who pleads with her “Don’t come back for me! Save yourself! I promise I will find a way to come back to you, just go and don’t look back!” even as the monstrous beast swallows his appendages whole.



    Rumors:
    They say that upriver one can find the ruins of a city far grander than Meridia ever was, even during its heyday. But what man could have built such edifices? Must have been the Titans.

    There are many levels of reality. The spirit world is next door, sure, but I mean more tangible realms. There is a vast subterranean realm below us, an entire under world, and we never think of the vast armies marching just a few meters beneath our feet. And don't get me started about the Cloud Fathers who dwell in the sky above.

    So, I hear that Master Iuz’ body turned up missing. I figure it will only be a matter of time before that old caitiff is out selling his services again.



    Commentary:
    This is where things start to go bad. Really bad.

    To start with, the players were a bit mad at one another as Lina's player felt that the others abandoned her during the cockatrice fight, being too eager to kill them that they forgot to defend the softer characters in the back row, leading to her being envenomed.

    Next, Lucia wanted to negotiate with the trolls, but didn't really have anything to offer them and got frustrated when threats alone weren't enough. At that point the players just kind of babbled hoping to hit on something, and then when the trolls responded they assumed that I, as the DM, was trying to guide them in the direction that I wanted them to go rather than speaking for a clan of cannibalistic sewer dwelling monsters.

    End result of the session was bad blood between the players (and towards me for "leading them down this path"), a bunch of dead civilians, and trading one ally for another with no real treasure to show for it except for a few bottles of wine, a behir egg, and a shiny penny.

    Things will go further down hill next time as out heroes suffer their first true loss.
    Last edited by Talakeal; 2019-09-06 at 11:35 AM.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

  13. - Top - End - #13
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    Default Re: Campaign Diary - Heart of Darkness: The Daughters of Rojukan

    Chapter Seven: Petrichor
    They say he was once the sheriff of a small berg not far from here. He did horrible things, said he was protecting the good common folk from the wrong kind of people, if you know what I mean, but that was no excuse for what he done. They tarred and feathered him when they found out, his horse to, but they didn’t stop there. They burned him alive, and then buried him in the ground. But the ground wouldn’t take him and spit him right back out. Petrichor I think they called him, blood of the earth, and if he is still out there, I wouldn’t want to cross his path in the dark of the night.

    One evening, as the Daughters of Rojukan makes their way back to Meridia following their conquest of Dragon Mountain, they sit around the campfire telling stories when the night becomes deathly quiet and uncomfortably warm, before growing dark as if a shadow passed over the moon.

    Oil starts to flow up from the ground and pool around the group’s campfire before exploding, and the skeletal figure of a man coated in burning oil bursts forth, mounted atop an equally ghastly horse. In a bubbling voice he shouts “I heard you were asking about me, so I thought I would put an end to y’all before you could bushwhack me!”

    As the group moves to defend themselves, the apparition puts bullets into Liquade and Lucia’s chests, damaging Lucia’s armor and puncturing Liquade’s lung. When Anabul and Liam attempt to close in, they find that he burns too hot to approach, even with Lina’s magic protecting them. The group is scattered, but manages to escape with their lives.

    On his way back to Meridia, Anabul is captured by slavers outside of the city. Though his companions are able to find him and buy him back at auction, it costs an exorbitant amount, someone wants the young urchin badly and is willing to pay far more than he is worth to get him. Anabul is now deeply indebted to the Daughters of Rojukan and legally the property of their house.

    Once they manage to regroup in Meridia, the Daughters of Rojukan do their best to rest up, but Liquade’s wound never really heals, and Lina is afraid that she might be crippled for life. They are, however, able to track down a map to a mysterious place called the House of Miracles.

    The group is eventually able to find the location, an abandoned barn standing in a fallow cornfield in the middle of nowhere. A sullen teenage girl sits by the entrance reading, and when Lucia asks her if this is the House of Miracles, she points to the backroom without looking up.

    The next room is empty except for rusted farming implements and a large bloodstained wooden table. A moment later they are introduced to Daniel, a young boy of about eleven years old. The group is distrustful of him at first, especially when he refuses to give a direct answer to who he is or how he came to be operating out of an old cornfield in the middle of the wilderness, but he is eventually able to convince them of his healing skill by explaining medical practices to Lina that are far in advance of anything found in Meridia.

    After he operates on Liquade’s wound, the group asks if he is able to cure their various old injuries such as Anabul’s deformed jaw or Liquade’s sterility, and he says yes, but it will take time, and the travelers never take him up on it save for a few vaccinations.

    When asked about the more mystical aspects of healing, he tells them that they will have to talk to his teacher and points them to the girl at front, whom they had taken to be a mere receptionist.

    She will give answers if asked a direct question, albeit in a caustic and petulant tone. She tells Lucia that her soul has been devoured and then healed over too many times to count, and repairing it would require enough soma to feed an entire pantheon of deities.

    She is also able to identify the book found under Plague Wood Village as a medical textbook explaining how to use enchantments to supplement mundane healing techniques, and surmises that they stumbled upon the remains of an experiment in creating zombies with a working immune system that could produce antibodies against diseases which killed their host too rapidly for them to develop any natural resistance.

    The Daughters of Rojukan soon set their minds to revenge, and Liquade does her best to track down Petrichor despite still not being fully recovered.

    They find his haunt and, during the daylight, Liam supervises them in building fortifications around it while Lina performs a complex ritual to completely protect the group from heat and flame. When he appears, Petrichor is able to turn their ambush around on them, flowing over their barricades and engulfing Liquide and Lina.

    The rest of the group eventually manages to drive him into a corner, at which point he melts into tar and sinks into the ground, but they are ready for it. Puma it able to sense his movements through the earth, and when the revenant emerges, the group surrounds it and cuts it down.

    As he bubbles away, Petrichor screams out threats of vengeance, claiming that he will never die and never forget, and will come for them when they are too old and feeble to fight back.

    Anabul is able to track down his old, charred, bones, and then pisses on them. The group then transports the sodden remains to a nearby mission where they can be buried on consecrated ground.

    While there, the Daughters of Rojukan have a chance encounter with their cousin Kells Mackrakken, whom they have not seen in many years. He is currently working as an irregular in the army, and was returning to Meridia from the front carrying scouting reports about units that have managed to slip across the river and make incursions into Meridian lands. He claims that the war is going poorly, and soon Meridia will need to start hiring mercenaries, but their coffers will only last so long.

    Kells has some leave coming, and offers to share an adventure with his cousins. He is a man of athletic build in his early 20s with a goatee and faux-hawk, and is skilled in both combat and wilderness scouting.

    He guides Liquade back to Meridia, where she can spend the winter recovering, and Liam insists on accompanying them, leaving Lina, Lucia, and Anabul on their own to plan their next expedition.

    Rumors:

    When my momma got sick, I was desperate to help her, I would have done anything to help. I did some things I'm not proud of, and in exchange I was told where I could find a cure. But it was a long journey, and though my spirit was willing I just couldn't make it all the way, I had to turn back. But now that she's dead and gone you can have my old map to the House of Miracles, it seems a shame to let it go to waste after all I did to get it.

    You ever heard of Ehud-Chulak? A small fishing village on the shores of a frozen lake. The people there are skin-changers, selkies, kin to the seals. They are jovial enough when times are good, even willing to trade and take in a traveler. But when times are bed, well, you ever hear the story about the Walrus and the Carpenter?

    When you are out there wandering, I would steer clear of the cemeteries. Many old boneyards dot this land, and the dead rarely rest easy anymore. I wonder why? Perhaps a bad star?


    Commentary:

    Oh boy, this was a bad one. This was the groups first, and to this point only, actual loss. Now, I am not playing with permanent death in this game, and HP represent morale rather than meat, so when the entire is defeated I have them broken and scattered, and meet back in town after rolling on a mishap table to represent bad fortune that occurs while injured and alone in the wilderness. Lina's player was furious, both at losing to a random encounter, and to getting a worse result on the table than everyone else, especially after they drew a rumor that was more or less able to negate Liquade's injury.

    As a result I decided to remove random encounters from the game as they really didn't serve any purpose, and I would greatly tone down the severity and the randomness of the mishap table; but the damage had already been done.
    Last edited by Talakeal; 2019-09-06 at 11:35 AM.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

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    Default Re: Campaign Diary - Heart of Darkness: The Daughters of Rojukan

    Session Eight: Ehud Chulak
    You ever heard of Ehud-Chulak? A small fishing village on the shores of a frozen lake. The people there are skin-changers, selkies, kin to the seals. They are jovial enough when times are good, even willing to trade and take in a traveler. But when times are bad, well, you ever hear the story about the Walrus and the Carpenter?

    Liquide is still recovering from surgery after being shot in the chest with Petrichor, and Liam insists on staying behind in Meridia to watch over her. The rest of the group decides to head for the selkie village at Ehud Chulak, although they are unsure if they are going as explorers, traders, raiders, or heroes.

    As they pass through the farthest reaches of what was once Meridia, the group stumbles into an enchanted grove where it is always spring. They find a lone nymph within, she incredibly beautiful; tall and full figured, with long blue-black hair and shining violet eyes. She introduces herself as Nightsong, and tells them that she spends her time dancing, singing, playing with animals, and exploring the grove. She is garbed in diaphanous silk which she claims was spun from starlight, a gift from her friend, and when the travelers light a fire she is grateful for the opportunity to bake cookies.

    The next day the group nears Ehud Chulak, and finds the land growing unseasonably cold, the plains blanketed in snow and the smaller rivers frozen solid. A pack of three huge white wolves begin to stalk the group, and Lina moves to hide while Lucia tries to start a fire to drive them off. The wolves make a break for the group, and Anabul fires off several crossbow bolts, wounding the wolves, before they are upon him, tripping him and savaging one of his arms. The white wolves can sniff out Lina, but Lucia comes to her aid and is able to drive the trio of wolves off.

    As they move up the mountain pass toward the lakeside town, the cold and wind pick up, and soon they notice the road guarded by a quartet of selkie holding large harpoons. They are short and burly, with the tusks and whiskers or walruses, and covered in scars. They attempt to shoo the humans off, and say they have no interest in either trading or eating the humans at this time.

    Eventually they convince the wardens to let them prove themselves, and the they are pointed to a crevasse between two hills in which a Lambton wurm is reputed to dwell, and told that if they kill it, they can enter the village. The trio heads to the hills and finds a pile of bones and frozen gore, and eventually the wurm clambers down upon them. Lucia battles it, neither side making progress, before Lina sets it alight with balefire.

    They return to the selkie and are told that they are indeed too tough to tangle with, and are welcome to enter the village, although they lament the waste of good meat by burning the wurm to ash.

    The village is built around a large lake, mostly frozen over, and is composed of lean buildings with the appearance of having been cobbled together from driftwood.

    The selkies are mostly of walrus stock, although a few resemble leopard seals or even river otters. The group is disappointed that their jovial reputation is not in evidence, and everyone in the village is tense and on edge, glancing around nervously and appearing unwilling to be seen talking to strangers. One female mentions that it isn’t wise to talk badly about their new allies after what happened to the River Speaker, but when pressed for more information she claims that she needs to get home to her pups and scurries off.

    The innkeeper is indeed jovial, a little too jovial, and is eager to sell the group all manner of exotic food and drink, but quickly changes the subject to trivialities whenever the group tries to talk about local politics.

    Leaving the tavern, they see one particularly tall house with a group of exceptionally tough looks selkie standing guard in front of it. Lucia decides to distract the guards, offering them a vat of greasy whale milk which she acquired in the tavern, which they quickly spike. Then the guards attempt to impress her with their bravado, soon taking her to the docks so that they can show off their athletic prowess for the beautiful stranger.

    Anabul moves in behind her and the padlock which secures the door, opening it almost instantly despite his wounded arm. Inside, he finds Clubber, the River Speaker, shaman of the city and priest of the salmon god Chinook, who is currently under house arrest.

    He is escorted to an empty fishing shack outside of town and explains that the village was recently approached by ambassadors of the Sidhe, a military coalition of the fey looking to expand into the region. They were told that they would be forever protected from the winter in exchange for their allegiance.

    The Daughters of Rojukan ask about the tales of the selkie eating people, and Clubber exasperatedly says that a few merchants were snowed in here over a decade ago, and were among those who drew the short lots to be eaten, and that the story has been blown way out of proportion and they want to live it down, although Anabul suspects there might be a bit more to it than that.

    He continues to explain that the village chieftain has agreed to join the Sidhe, and that the next day village people are to be gathered on the overlook and take a formal oath after placating them with a great feast. They cannot let that happen.

    The river speaker moves to the edge of the lake and begins a chant that resembles throat singing to invoke Chinook, while the trio of humans moves to the chieftain’s longhouse.

    Inside they find the ambassador; a towering firbolg, spindly and crooked as if recovering from a stroke, with a long white beard and eyes like ice. He is guarded by four Valkyrie, warrior nymphs with glittering mail, long spears, winged helms, and flowing golden braids. When the group challenges the ambassador, he looks at Lina, sneers, and declares her “Disgusting,” and then smashes an ornate snow globe.

    A moment later the temperature plummets, and a cold wind blows the longhouse down around them, sending the selkie chieftain rolling down into a snow bank. In the spirit world, an absolutely massive face towers above the overlook, a cruel old man with a beard made of icicles, his breath a deathly chill.

    Lina declares it a nice parlor trick and snaps her fingers, casting a mass adaptation spell to protect her companions, and then Lucia and Anabul spring into battle. The firbolg attempts to use magic to sap the life directly from the mortals, their resolve weakened by the presence of Ymir, a dark entity whom Chinook cannot completely repel.

    Anabul and Lucia fight against the Valkyrie but, already wounded from their struggles with wurms and wolves, are subdued, leaving Lina to fight on her own. She conjures numerous ball lightnings as well as Kindlesnap, who grumbles that he can do little against a titan. When the Valkyrie are distracted Lucia and Anabel quaff healing potions and spring to defeat them, while Lina and the firbolg engage in a battle of sorcery, ice vs. fire, which causes both of them to collapse simultaneously. Ymir soon disappears without his tie to the mortal world.

    After the battle, Clubber purifies the area with burning sage brush, and then the sound of a disembodied sleigh can be heard. An enormous man with a bushy beard steps down and congratulates the group. He claims to be the spirit of the solstice, barred from this region by the power of Old Man Winter. Lina recalls the name Father Christmas from one of her old books, and the spirit claims that he hasn’t been called that in a very long time, but if the Daughters of Rojukan will once again spread his traditions, he will be willing to honor the old pacts and provide them with gifts.

    He has a professionally printed primer on Evocation magic for Lina, very hard to come by in this day and age. For Lucia nectar of the Fire Flower which can enhance any potion she brews. For Anabul a cloak of elven silk to hide him. He also says that he has a hammer from his own workshop for them to bring to Liam and a set of survival gear a prospector once left at his home for Liquade, as well as his wishes for a speedy recovery. Lucia reminds him that he hadn’t bring anything for Anya, to which Father Christmas grumbles and hands her his own fur lined boots.

    He then turns his sack inside out and presents a glorious feast for the entire village, the inhabitants of which are eager to renew trade with Meridia, as well as a leather case filled with potent tonics in a rainbow of colors for the adventurers.

    Father Christmas explains that summoning a Titan was beyond the power of the old firbolg, and that he must have used a runic item created for him by the Snow Queen of Permafrost, ruler of the Sidhe. He explains that they are distant from Meridia and have little power here, but are working hard to turn the world away from the old ways and spirits such as himself. He then departs on his sleigh.

    The Daughters of Rojukan spend a few days in Ehud Chulak, and then depart.

    The group once again stops by the sacred grove on their way back to Meridia, and Lina asks Night Song to come with them. The nymph is very reluctant at first, for her friend always told her to stay away from the lands of men, and that he will be returning soon and she doesn’t want to be gone when he does, but Lina is persistent and eventually she gives him.

    On the journey back to town, Anabul attempts to make clumsy small talk with Night Song, and his mother warns him not to get to close, for she believes the nymph to be his cousin.

    Rumors:

    Oh yes, the old Silver Deep Mine. Spent a time working there in my youth before my back gave out. Mines gone now. I mean, the mine is still there, but no one works it. Got too hard to defend them roads, and all sorts of nasty crawling things moved in. Spiders big as your dog, goblins, gnomes, and worse. Of course, there's also plenty of silver.

    There is a place of power. An old place. A place where the witches of the wild used to meet for their secret Sabbats. It is wild now, Granny Clank Trap won't let anyone touch it, but its power just lies fallow. Soon it will burst. Do you dare seek out the Hag's meet?

    The world is bigger than you know. Kingdoms line the seacoast for thousands of miles in every direction, many of them far larger and grander than Meridia, and home to many strange cultures and creatures. Beyond the sea lies the endless ocean and the million islands. And that is just the sea, to say nothing of all the lands of the Earth that can be accessed from the river.


    Commentary:

    An attempt at a Christmas adventure, but half the group ended up being sick over the holidays and we had to play without them, which made the adventure a little more challenging than the remaining players wanted.

    Had a couple of issues at the get-go, first Lina's player wanted to take out a loan to buy a new spell book before the adventure, which would have, in hindisight, been very bad, but it was hard trying to convince her not to do it without spoiling the ending or looking like I am trying to railroad her. Further, the party didn't really know how to deal with a "neutral" dungeon that wasn't actively friendly or hostile; when I first created this campaign it wasn't for any particular group, and an evil party might have had more fun simply putting the town to the torch.

    The biggest issue was Nightsong. Lina was adamant that she come along with the party, and pulled off the rolls to convince her, but I wasn't quite sure how to handle having a permanent follower from a mechanical perspective, and I didn't like the fact that she made a lot of the other player's charisma based skills redundant. In the end Anabul would end up leaving the group, and I just kept things as they were, balanced for a five person party and giving Anabul's share of the rewards to Nightsong, but there were a few awkward sessions where I wasn't sure how to rebalance on the fly with both of them in the party.

    Another interesting controversy occurred once Anabul left and I had a full on character sheet made for Nightsong. I described her as having an inhumanly beautiful figure, which Lina's player took to mean incredibly slender and delicate, but the artist took to mean extremely curvy, which Lina's player found "creepy" and "disgusting". Its really weird how descriptions can often mean completely opposite things in the player's minds.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

  15. - Top - End - #15
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    Default Re: Campaign Diary - Heart of Darkness: The Daughters of Rojukan

    Session Nine: Silver Deep Mine
    Oh yes, the old Silver Deep Mine. Spent a time working there in my youth before my back gave out. Mines gone now. I mean, the mine is still there, but no one works it. Got too hard to defend them roads, and all sorts of nasty crawling things moved in. Spiders big as your dog, goblins, gnomes, and worse. Of course, there's also plenty of silver.

    Lucia is awakened by Anya, who tells her there is a monster in the bathroom. Lucia cautiously approaches to find Liquade’s pet bunyip, Puma, lounging in the tub. Moments later the slippery beast galumphs to Liquade’s room with Lucia in pursuit.

    That afternoon, they set out for the Silver Deep Mine, but first they stop by the Hag’s Meet at twilight. The Hag’s Meet lies by a river on the far northern border of the Meridian ruins, in a sandy depression carved out by many ancient floods. A ring of menhir stands here, and in the middle is a huge cold iron cauldron that has not been lit for many years. The place is a nexus, the most powerful in the area, and until Lina came it had not been tapped in a long, long, time.

    They camp there, and the next morning continue on toward the mine, but are waylaid when they they fall into a pit trap that was obviously set by bandits. When no ambush is forthcoming, they slowly clamber from the hole. Anabul says that Bleedin’ Ned’s gang used to operate in this area, and it looks like his work.

    A short time later, arrows fly from the underbrush at the party, and the Daughters of Rojukan see a half dozen skeletal archers firing at them. The group charges, but when they draw close the underbrush comes to life with dozens of maws like giant Venus flytraps. Liam is quickly grappled while Lucia, Puma, and Anabul fight off the skeletons. Lina wards Liam against fire and then sets the underbrush alight, and once the armored smith his freed his hammer makes quick work of the remaining skeletons. Anabul identifies them as Bleedin’ Ned’s gang, although he is at a loss as for how they were killed or why they are now amongst the walking dead.

    As the Daughters of Rojukan draw near the location of the mine, they hear voices and smell smoke. Anabul and Lina move ahead and find a group of armored soldiers laying siege to the mine’s entrance. Judging by their insignia they appear to be in the employ of Duke Redborne, and Lina quickly conjures of a ball of blazing balefire to engulf the group. The few survivors call her grandmother, beg her forgiveness, and promise to depart these lands and never return if she will only spare their lives.

    A group of goblin miners has taken up refuge in the mine. They have fortified the entrance with numerous makeshift bulwarks and booby traps, and it is slow going, the group taking for more damage than these small foes should pose. The goblins use their crossbows to shoot out Lina’s lantern and take advantage of the dark, but eventually they are backed into a corner and slain. The goblins appear to have been trapped, they were ragged and low on provisions, and had spent a lot of effort fortifying the mine as well as trying to excavate an escape route.

    In one side tunnel, chains hang from the ceiling and seem to move in the wind despite the still underground air. As they continue, the temperature drops, and then the darkness coalesces into a humanoid form which begins to draw the heat from the group. Lina commands it to tell them what it wants, and the wraith bellows the word “Release!”. Lina conjures flaming blades for the group and they are able to use them to dissipate the darkness. In one cleft they find an old stone idol of a strange squat being that glows green in the dark. Lina proclaims that it is no god known to Meridia.

    Beyond the goblins, is a nest of four giant goblin spiders, each the size of a donkey. They are killed after a short fight, the Bunyip making quick work of a pair itself while Lucia deals with one that strikes from above. Numerous desiccated goblins are found wrapped in their webs, and silver nuggets and a few coins are taken from the bodies.

    The spider’s mother sleeps in the only side passage, a great black arachnid nearly the size of a hippopotamus. In a screeching voice, she asks why the humans would dare to enter her nest after killing her children. Lucia is able to convince the enormous spider queen that they meant no offense and then talk her into leaving the mine, claiming that it will soon be reopened and that it would not be worth her time to spend her life constantly fighting off treasure hungry humans.

    The group continues on to the mine’s deepest chamber, where they find a massive Lithovore, a huge six limbed creature with skin like mica and blood like flowing sand. It is devouring the last silver vein, and Liam quickly moves to get its attention. It turns on him, and simply crushes him under its bulk as it attempts to devour his armor. The rest of the team attempts to subdue it, but finds that their weapons cannot penetrate its stony hide.

    Lina conjures more flame blades, these small and focused, with blowtorch intensity, and when they stab the beast’s sides a strange smell of burning minerals fills the cave. Soon the monster stops moving, but the group is unsure if it is dead and cuts it into little pieces while Liam does his best to harvest the remaining silver.

    Loaded down with as many nuggets as they could find and as much silver ore as they can carry, the group returns to town to report that the mine has been cleared of infestation if anyone is interested in reopening it.

    Back in Meridia they find that Nightsong has gone missing from the family compound, and when they eventually find her, she is drinking with Reynard at Club Shezmu, and the girl’s father insists that he and the nymph have met before.

    Rumors:

    There are spells Geomanthus won't cast, not for any price. But, just between you and me, there is a woman named Nightshade who can do it for you, for the right price. It's a bit of a walk, but then again sometimes revenge is worth it. Just ask my late wife.

    There are plenty of ghosts and mutants in the old hills. But there is one… thing… that defies all description. All tongues and teeth, and not symmetrical on any plane. What sort of blasphemy unleashed that upon the world? I can't say, I just hope that I never see it in person.

    The only thing that keeps us humans safe is that the monsters spend most of their time fighting one another. They have a keep, a command post if you will, from which to organize raids on Meridia. It's not far from here, at a place they call The Mound. The various factions fight for leadership, and once they get it, they will march on us sure as you can spit.



    Commentary:

    This is probably the smoothest session of the entire campaign. Not particularly dramatic or exciting, but everything went more or less right for the PCs, and there was no drama IC or OOC.

    The one hiccup was the goblins were a little too effective, actually using tactics and booby traps, and we did have a bit of a rules argument about whether or not a player guessing where a trap was would make them immune to accidentally setting it off when moving through the space, but it was mild, and a nice change of pace after the last few sessions.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

  16. - Top - End - #16
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    Default Re: Campaign Diary - Heart of Darkness: The Daughters of Rojukan

    Chapter Ten: The Nameless Horror
    There are plenty of ghosts and mutants in the old hills. But there is one… thing… that defies all description. All tongues and teeth, and not symmetrical on any plane. What sort of blasphemy unleashed that upon the world? I can't say, I just hope that I never see it in person.

    The Daughters of Rojukan begin preparations for a raid on The Mound, but it will be a long time coming, and they decide that they should seek out the Nightshade Witch. They find her cottage in a cemetery that was built on an island that rises above a vast dark water bayou. The witch, who goes by the name of Belladona, is a slender woman in her early thirties with dark hair, pale skin, and thick mourner’s makeup. She claims to have power to grant the living the semblance of death and the dead the semblance of life, and will sell her services to the Daughters of Rojukan for a price.

    They ask if she can break minor curses, and she says that she can, but the group decides that they want to keep on Mytilidae’s good side and decline to break their binding oaths. They ask if she can break the curse on The World’s Edge, and she tells them that it is divine magic, and she is merely a witch, it will require a god, or atleast a genie, to undo that sort of enchantment.

    When asked about wandering undead, the Nightshade Witch says that something has changed since she learned necromancy as a girl, and the dead are spontaneously rising in places where corpses are concentrated. She can keep those around her home under control for now, but soon the corruption will spread and corpses in the wild may start rising.

    They ask her about their recent encounters with the Sidhe, and she tells them that this has always been unseelie territory, and their leader is someone named Aloadae.

    After exchanging recipes with the witch, the group decides to press on to Dragon Mountain to parley with their allies there. The Daughters of Rojukan make camp in a cave in the mountain’s foothills, and are awakened by the sounds of something large and wet moving towards them in the darkness.

    As it draws closer, they see the mutated beast, like a misshapen conglomeration of mouths torn inside out and sewn together. Larger than the largest bear and covered in thick yellow mucus, its pinkish body is asymmetrical and malformed, with three legs on one side and two on the other, its twin tails of drastically different lengths.

    The group tries to stay quiet, but it appears to be tracking them by licking the floor, and once it come into contact with their fire it goes berserk, flailing and lashing about the room and injuring those it strikes. They scatter in the darkness. When they get to the cave’s mouth, Lina lights her lantern and sees that Liam is not with them, slowed down by his heavy armor.

    They attempt to engage the beast, but Lucia cannot get close; every time she strikes the creature it turns upon her with great ferocity. Eventually, they deduce that it is blind and deaf, and Anabul and Liquade are able to use their bows to draw it away from Liam’s unconscious form and into a dark corner, where Lina traps it with a wall of fire and the group then peppers it with all the ammunition they can muster. When the fire dies out it appears to be dead, but the group does not stick around the make sure. Liquade considers butchering it for meat, but her companions quickly talk her out of it.

    They travel through the night, and in the morning light they stumble upon a forgotten highway, and follow it for a while. They come upon a faded sign with an arrow pointing towards “The Thing.” They argue about whether or not they should follow it, Lina thinks they have seen enough “Things” for one day, but she is outvoted and they continue on.

    By mid-morning they find Jacob’s Waystation. Behind it, in a pavilion tent, lies The Thing, a tourist attraction of sorts, run by a thin man in jeweled brown robes who calls himself Caliph Assad. He claims that The Thing was once the Devil, cast out by the gods and forced to dwell on Earth for a thousand years before finally being turned to stone for his crimes; helpless but not quite dead.

    The Thing itself lies in the tent on the floor. It is in the shape of a man and about five meters long. It is either a stature or a stylized suit of armor, smooth yet skeletal, with long claws and a tattered cloak. It is made of a black material that is somewhere between iron and glass, and has faded red runes atop it. On its brow is a crown of fossilized albatross bones and its chest has a hollow within it that Kithicore is strangely drawn to. There do not appear to be any joints or holes in The Thing, and even the eye sockets are merely depressions in the mask.

    Lina’s insight reveals that The Thing bears a thousand and one terrible curses, all held at bay by a powerful mysticism spell. It also has the resonance of many other spells, and a necromantic aura that is incredibly old but still strong.

    After leaving the Thing, the group finds their way to Dragon Mountain and arrange a joint raid on The Mound with the trolls who dwell there; they will promise the trolls mastery of the mound and all the treasure it entails so long as they enter into an alliance with Meridia against Duke Redborne’s forces.

    They agree to meet at The Mound in three weeks’ time, and then the Daughters of Rojukan return to Meridia to recuperate from their battle with the Nameless Horror.

    Rumors:
    The fey seem chaotic and disorganized, but they do have an organization of sorts. It is called the Sidhe, and you will find its leaders far, far, to the north, in the icy land of Permafrost, where they are guarded by giants and ruled over by a terrible queen.

    The Houses of Lamentation still lie beneath the hills, and their worm dies not.

    There is a ruined coliseum in the badlands. Old place, older than Meridia for sure. Long abandoned. Still, it must have been glorious in its heyday, and I can't imagine the empire that would have commanded such games. Must a been a sight to see. Still, if you believe the local freeholders, and I wouldn't, it isn't quite so abandoned. Sometimes strange lights burn in its windows, and if one listens hard enough, they can still hear the echoing clash of swords, the screams of the dying, and the roar of a ghostly crowd.


    Commentary:
    This one was short, but had its fair share of drama during the fight with the mutant in the cave. I don't play with random deaths from dice rolls, but at the same time I warn players that death is on the line if they are performing a blatantly suicidal action. The party wanted to simply retreat and abandom Lucia and Liam in the cave with the monster, at which point I announced that death would be on the line if they did that, to which Lucia's player got angry, stating that the rest of the group shouldn't be able to decide her fate.

    Then, when they were attempting to trap the monster, they demanded to know why the seemingly blind monster was moving in an intelligent manner, and I explained that generally when an NPC makes a decision that could reasonably go either way, I tend to choose what I think will make for a more exciting game, which typically means smarter decisions if the party is doing well and dumber decisions if the party is struggling. They asked me not to do this, and I agreed, although it would come back to bite them a bit in the next session.

    Also, in writing this up, its kind of funny, a good story and a good game are different things. While I thought that trapping the monster and finishing it off with projectiles made for kind of lame game play, the narrative sounds much better than "and we heroically traded blows until the monster died!"

    For anyone interested, The Thing is authentic, although Assad's story is not. It is actually the armor and crown of the BBEG from the previous campaign, and a bit of foreshadowing for the future. Mostly I just thought the idea of roadshow attractions in a world with legitimate monsters and mysterious artifacts was something not often explored.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

  17. - Top - End - #17
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    Default Re: Campaign Diary - Heart of Darkness: The Daughters of Rojukan

    Session Eleven: The Mound
    The only thing that keeps us humans safe is that the monsters spend most of their time fighting one another. They have a keep, a command post if you will, from which to organize raids on Meridia. It's not far from here, at a place they call The Mound. The various factions fight for leadership, and once they get it, they will march on us sure as you can spit.

    The journey to The Mound is uneventful save for the discovery of a few standing stones carved with ancient glyphs. The group eventually stumbles into a sacred place where numerous shrines dot the land as well as a dozen or so massive stone Moai.

    A robed goblin maintains the shrines and claims that this is where raiders from the mound come to seek the blessings of their ancestors. When asked if any of the heroes are trolls, the goblin, Tellok, tells the travelers that few of the warriors at The Mound much care for trolls, as long ago the trolls sided with the humans against the ogres and have never been fully forgiven. He offers to bless the travelers but they all decline save for Anabul, though he does not benefit from the blessing as he is pledged over to darker powers.

    Upon breaking from the forest, they see The Mound, a ruined hill fort built in a cyclopean style, with rough mountains on two sides and a swamp on a third. A raging river splits the plains before the mound, and the only safe crossing appears to be a small wooden foot bridge.

    Standing in the center of the bridge is Brakuhr, an especially large and stupid ogre even by the standards of his kind. He has been appointed to stand guard over this bridge by Lady Arriah, the new war-master of The Mound, and is able to demand whatever tribute he sees fit. He demands that each traveler give him their “best thing,” but he is refused, and after a few moments of threats and posturing a fight breaks out. The ogre is very tough, wielding what appears to have once been a barn door as a tower shield and a farmer’s sickle as a sword. He holds the bridge valiantly, but eventually Anabul is able to slip past him and, once flanked, the ogre is quickly brought down.

    The group is, however, shaken. They were told the creatures of the mound were disorganized and had no leader, and now they have a dead guard and a group of, apparently, hated trolls weighing them down. The Mound appears to be inhabited by several hundred abhuman warriors, far too many for a straight fight.

    The trolls meet with the Daughters of Rojukan and they decide to approach the nearest camp, that of the ogres. The ogres form up in a line and bellow at the interlopers, demanding the trolls go home. Lina attempts to intimidate them, threatening them with death unless they submit to the soon to be masters of The Mound, but the ogres react by throwing stones and yelling all the louder. Eventually, Anabul breaks the siege by saying that they have important information about Meridia for their leader, and one of the ogres agree to allow them to speak with their chief.

    The ogre chief is Kun-Fat-Lao, a slender and graceful warrior, at least by ogre standards, with yellow-gray skin and a long blue moustache. He is a sly and suspicious leader, and he is uneasy about meeting with armed outsiders in his yurt. The humans repeat their position, that they have come to take the mount and wish an alliance with the ogres against Duke Redborne’s forces. When Lao asks what is in it for him, they tell him that he will be allowed to keep his life, which sours his mood. He demands that they share their secret information, and when they admit that it was merely a bluff, he sends a messenger to Lady Arriah to tell her that he has caught some assassins from Meridia sent to strike her down, and then orders his soldiers to attack.

    The ogres are clumsy fighters who are slow to react, and ill prepared to deal with Lina’s sorcery. Lao is quickly targeted by an inferno, and slips into the shadows, where he moves into a flanking position and, while they are distracted, takes the unarmored Nightsong and Puma out of the fight. Anabul soon catches onto him, and once it becomes obvious that the ogres are losing, the chieftain maneuvers his men between the invaders and himself, sacrificing them to make his own escape.

    Outside, the trolls have held their own against the ogres, mostly due to the Mytilidae’s sorcery, though three of their number have been killed and more wounded, only saved by their trollish regeneration. Liam is able to negotiate a surrender from the remaining ogre warriors, and though a few of the trolls are vengeful, the ogres are willing to let bygones be bygones and prepare for a joint attack on the lizard folk in the swamp.

    The swamps are dirty and saline, and Anabul’s mother informs him that they are unnatural, tainted by a power that is alien but similar to her own. The lizard folk are primitive sauriels, savage hengeyokai. Their queen squats naked on a throne made from a downed tree, adorned with bones and beads and feathers. At her side is one of the civilized breeds of lizard folk, dressed in expensive silk robes that have been fouled by the muck.

    It is this robed emissary who translates the Lizard Queen’s words from her language of clicks and whistles into the Terran tongue. She demands tribute and, when Anabul hands her the jerky he took from the gnoll champion, she smacks his hand away and hisses, though her minions are quick to gobble it up when it falls to the ground.

    Negotiations go poorly. The Lizard Queen demands that she is a goddess and be treated as such, and will not share power. Eventually Anabul offers himself as tribute, and though the sauriels ignore him their emissary says he will personally be willing to buy the boy and, in exchange, convinces the Lizard Queen to keep her warriors out of the fighting. He also promises her control of The Mound when the fight is over, though he doesn’t let the humans in on this fact.

    The orcs live in the foothills to the west of The Mound, and they are the last who are approached. The orcs respect strength, and a full force of men, ogres, and trolls march into their village of stone ruins and mud huts. They are taken to an old amphitheater where their warlord holds court. She is an extremely tall and muscular woman named Kishanth, nearly nude save for a few scraps of bronze armor and with skin such a deep shade of olive green it is nearly black. She wields a massive war hammer and possesses a fierce beauty, at least by orc standards.

    She refuses to show weakness, and every threat that is visited upon her is returned. The orcs threaten to pillage Meridia, and the humans claim that the city is unassailable, if the orcs had that sort of power, they would have already done it. They then guarantee that once Redborne is dealt with and their grandfather’s armies free to do as they please The Mound will be their first target.

    Lucia proposes an alliance, and Kishanth states that she will never bow before humans or trolls. Mytilidae draws Lucia aside and tells her that she is perfectly willing to be the power behind the throne, she doesn’t care for glory or privilege, and is happy to offer Kishanth the position of war master.

    Kishanth further asks if the people of Meridia are really willing to side with orcs against their own kind. Will they be willing to step aside and allow the greenskins to despoil Redborne’s lands once the Duke has fallen? To allow them to run wild, eating and enslaving women and children? Lucia says that she has no qualms about it, for if they allow the lands respite a new tyrant would soon arise, destruction is the only way to break the cycle of violence.

    Kishanth muses that Lady Arriah has done nothing to better their lot in life since taking control of the mound, and agrees to usurp her. The orcs join the invading army, and they march on The Mound itself, though it is not without its defenders, many of the raiders who dwell here, particularly those of other races, have pledged allegiance to Arriah directly rather than to one of the three chiefs.

    As the trolls, orcs, ogres, and large numbers of expendable goblin slaves attack the main gate and distract Arriah’s forces, Lina conjures up a volcano to blast a hole through the side wall and allow them entrance into the courtyard. Kishanth leads the Daughters or Reynard inside and screams a challenge to Lady Arriah.

    The Lady shows herself, a dark-skinned giantess nearly twenty feet tall, and in a silky voice chides Kishanth for siding with the humans and expresses her disappointment. Then she agrees to the challenge, claiming it is time to exterminate the vermin that infest her lands.

    At the far side of the courtyard a robed figure can be seen, and beneath his hood a squirming mass of tentacles. It chants in a language that only Anabul can hear.
    Liam moves to engage, and she kicks him in the face, sending him sprawling. Arriah then strides forward and picks up Lina, squeezing the breath from her and then tossing her unconscious body aside. Lucia, Kishanth, and Anabul move to engage her from the rear.

    As Liquade draws her bow Kun-Fat-Lao appears and engages her, but before his blades can fall on her she locks eyes with him and uses her hypnotic powers to command him to attack Lady Arriah, and he finds himself utterly unable to shake off the spell.

    Anabul strikes one of the arteries in the giantess’ leg and she begins to gush blood, the weight of her own body working against her, and a moment later Lucia leaps upwards and drives a powerful blow across her head and chest. She staggers backwards, clearly in pain, and gasps, “All right, you are tougher than you look. Normally I save this trick for that special time of the month; but I think you have earned it.”

    She then blinks the blood out of her eyes, which open sideways with nictitating membranes, revealing a yellow iris and slit pupil beneath. She then rises, taller and thinner before, as her skin changes into scales and her teeth into fangs. She swiftly transforms into a humanoid serpent, towering above them with feral rage, and her wounds close in an instant.

    Liam has recovered enough to join the battle, and Lao and Liquade are soon upon the serpent. The companions attempt to surround her or trap her in a corner, but she is too slippery, slithering between them and delivering poisonous bites. Though she is struck many times for each blow she delivers, Arriah’s wounds are simply healing too quickly.

    Eventually, Lao succumbs to the poison, cursing that he always knew he would die the same way as his master. The were-cobra maneuvers her pursuers into a tight formation and then slams them into the castle wall, knocking Liam and Liquade unconscious, and then turns to devour Anabul, swallowing him whole.

    Lucia and Kishanth take this opportunity to strike in unison, the orc’s war hammer crashing into the giantess’ spindly knee as Lucia drives her blade into the beast’s heart. The orc warlord quickly pulls out a hand-axe and chops off the falling serpent’s head, freeing Anabul in the process. The giantess’ body contracts into its previous form and grows pale in death.

    The tentacled figure makes a quick exit, tripping over his robes in his hurry to scramble away from The Mound now that Arriah is dead.

    After wounds are bound, they speak of politics. Kishanth doesn’t know where Arriah came from, she merely appeared a few months ago and declared herself war master, crushing any who opposed her, and then started directing raids and claiming that an attack on Meridia was imminent but never making any true progress. Liam asks if Duke Redborne had dealings with her and Kishanth says no, if Arriah was meeting with the Duke it would have been in secret, and if the Duke’s men had shown their faces around here her orcs would have torn them off and eaten them.

    Mytilidae officiates over an oath of vengeance between Meridia and The Mound against Duke Redborne, and when Lucia goes to seal the deal by shaking Kishanth’s hand the orc uses her superior strength to force the human to her knees and tells her to remember that this is where she belongs.

    The Lizard Emissary meets with the group to claim his prize, and true to their word the Daughters of Rojukan give Anabul up, though they take his gear first and lock him up in a set of shoddy manacles to which he has swallowed the key. The lizard man claims that he is eager to leave the swamp, that he is only here as a missionary. He bows before Lucia and departs, saying “May she greet you with gently smiling jaws.”

    A week later, a large white fish gets Liquade’s attention. It speaks to her and claims to be one of the white salmon of wisdom, and tells her where she can find Anabul, drunk and beaten on a river bank outside of Meridia.

    Anabul claims that the lizard man kept him drugged and tried to convert him to the worship of something called The Serpent, though he rebuffed him with feigned piety towards the gods of Valhalla. The lizard folk weren’t keeping him, but were instead planning to use him as a bargaining chip against something called the Synovial Current that is desperate to acquire him.

    Anabul was moved through the ruins near Meridia, where he spoke with his mother, as well as the mushrooms and flowers, and witnessed the lizard folk guards dealing with mobsters who had the faces of apes. It is unclear what, if any, of this was real. While they were on a skiff moving up the river, Anabul heard his mother telling him to play dead, only to see three massive eels rise from the river and swallow his captor’s whole, before disappearing into the water.

    The Amber Amulet of Power

    One of Lina’s first actions after mastering her own power was to push forward and create an artifact to enhance her abilities, imbuing her favorite piece of jewelry with a portion of her own soul.

    This simple amulet allows her to cast the Scorch spell free of mana. On a critical success, this artifact imposes a -20 penalty on the subject’s attempt to resist the spell, while on a fumble the amulet’s power is exhausted for the remainder of the mission.

    This amulet requires proximity to its targets, and has a maximum range of one hundred yards, which may be shortened by dense walls or other obstacles that lie between the amulet and its target.

    Rumors:
    Meridia is far from the first empire to hold dominion over these lands, and it won't be the last.

    Legends say that a mad demigod stalks these lands. The secret bastard child of Artemis, always eager to ignite the divine fire in his blood through acts of ritual sacrifice. Stay clear of the dread huntsman's path!

    Ah-loo-whin was once a mage who wished to learn all the secrets of the cosmos. Not so different from a thousand others. What sets him apart was that he actually succeeded! Of course, his feeble mortal body couldn't hold all that knowledge. They say that his ghost still haunts these lands, burning as it falls, like a comet in the night.


    Commentary:
    After the players asked me to stop adjusting monster tactics to balance the adventure's difficulty, I started playing the enemies a lot more brutal, vicious, and out to win this session. The players noticed my change in tactics, and of course were upset. Apparently what they were really asking was for me to always play the monsters really dumb.

    Furthermore, when Lady Arriah gave her cheesy line before transforming, Anabul's player insisted that he should be allowed to take a free attack against her out of turn, and claims that he has a strict "No monologuing" rule, despite the fact that her "monologue" took less than ten seconds to deliver. Lina's player backed him up on this, claiming that her definition of a monolgue is "information that is conveyed through in character dialogue" and that "It is one constant in gaming, if anyone is talking in character, they are the only person at the table who is having fun." Which really encapsulates the vast disconnect between me and my players.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

  18. - Top - End - #18
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Campaign Diary - Heart of Darkness: The Daughters of Rojukan

    Session Twelve: The Old Coliseum
    There is a ruined coliseum in the badlands. Old place, older than Meridia for sure. Long abandoned. Still, it must have been glorious in its heyday, and I can't imagine the empire that would have commanded such games. Must a been a sight to see. Still, if you believe the local freeholders, and I wouldn't, it isn't quite so abandoned. Sometimes strange lights burn in its windows, and if one listens hard enough, they can still hear the echoing clash of swords, the screams of the dying, and the roar of a ghostly crowd.

    Lina convinces her companions to travel to the Hag’s Meet so that she can replenish her mana, and on the way, they find a group of pirate captains gambling at an old stone table. Lina and Anabul join in and work together to clean them out, and after trading insults the pirates threaten their lives if they ever catch them at sea. Anabel’s mother claims that this stone table was likely one of the many sites declared as neutral ground by the Pirate King Gaikhano before his fall.

    The group passes by an ancient mausoleum dedicated to their distant ancestors. It is blessed, or cursed, with an aura of respect, and Liquade falls prey to it, leaving a rich offering before they are on their way.

    On the edge of the Badlands, they find a large black bear in a trap, starving a few yards away from a pile of rotting meat. At great risk to himself, Anabul is able to sneak up and free the bear. Liquide then soothes the beast and shares the group’s food with it, meaning that everyone else is on half rations and will be weak with hunger upon reaching the coliseum.

    The group finds the coliseum a few days later, bear in tow. They approach suspiciously, sending Anabul in to investigate while Liam inspects the outside. All of the entrances except for the main gate onto the arena floor have been sealed, solidly mortared shut with an unfamiliar technique.

    The inside of the arena is circular, about fifty feet across, with a sand floor. Corpses sit in the seats, most human, but not all, and though many are mummified some are skeletal or still fresh. The only living things are a sextet of harpies, large vultures with the heads and shoulders of filthy women, with large hooked noses and pendulous breasts. They tear at some of the fresher bodies, periodically squawk at one another, and intently watch anyone who enters the arena.

    There are four large portcullises around the edge of the arena that lead to the fighting pits below. At the far end are a pair of winding stone staircases around a fifth, smaller, portcullis and leading up into the Podium Box, where a massive mummified corpse sits upon a throne.

    Anabul and Liam reconvene and, after discussing strategy for a bit, decide that the party will enter the arena together and search it for treasure. When they enter, the portcullis slams shut behind them, torches burst into green light, and the audience of the dead turns to look upon them. The massive corpse upon the Podium then bellows:

    “Welcome to the arena Krazukag! I thank you for risking your lives battling for my amusement, but before I allow you to fight, I must test to see if you can cut it against those who could not!”

    Two of the side gates open and skeletal warriors with mismatched arms and armor march out. The two teams pair up and the humans easily defeat the undead in their duels. At one point, Nightsong is left isolated and alone, and several harpies move to descend upon her, but Lina surrounds her with an aura of fire and drives the bird-women off.

    Krazukag sighs in boredom and contemptuously tosses a pouch of copper coins onto the arena floor while giving a half-hearted clap.

    “Very well, you have proved your metal. Take a moment to rest before the main event.” He then has his skeletal servants drag him a rotting hippopotamus carcass and a keg of dark beer which he devours while watching the upcoming fights, most of it falling through his desiccated ribcage.

    The heroes bind their wounds, and a few moments later a skeletal herald announces the entrance of Bragrok’s Bashers, a group of a dozen hardened orcish raiders and pit fighters. The skeletal audience begins to chant the word bashers over and over again.
    The orcs move to surround the humans, maintaining discipline despite suffering a few wounds from arrows and shotgun shells. Liquade attempts to use her mental powers to disrupt them, but order is restored with a quick boxing of the ears.

    Eventually, Lucia and Anabul break ranks and charge into the orcs on their right flank, and Lucia and Puma do the same on the left. Bragrok and his burliest men then charge straight ahead. Lina scorches them with hell fire and Bragrok moves to catch her, taunting her and calling her little witch.

    Liquade uses her mental powers to entice the orcs into provoking the bear. Bragrok is left alone with Lina, his guards moving to subdue the bear while she goes to help the outnumbered Puma.

    Lina conjures a ring of flames to protect her, but Bragrok simply bull-rushes her through it, burning the both of them in the process. The orc moves to strangle the life from the small girl, but then her sister looks back and commands the gladiator to feed himself to the flames, and he is unable to resist her gaze.

    Lucia and Liam defeat their foes mostly unscathed, and though Anabul is wounded he takes out more than his fair share of the orcs. The bunyip and the bear are eventually subdued, the fight beaten out of them, but by then the orcs are too few in number to put up a fight and with Krazukag’s leave the yield the floor to the Daughters of Rojukan, the healthy carrying their wounded, and the dead walking out of their own accord.

    Krazukag applauds and tosses handfuls of silver to the victors. After a moment’s rest, the skeletal herald announces the main event, the Daughter of Reynard versus the reigning champion, Zamira who Strikes Faster Than Hearts Can Beat. The travelers wonder how the skeleton knows of their grandfather, but are interrupted by the appearance of Zamira from the doorway below the podium.

    She is a naga dervish, with the lower body of a giant python and the torso of a lithe woman with long brown hair and a pair of cruelly sharp scimitars. True to her name she strikes quickly, moving in and out, never staying still long enough to let herself be surrounded. She strikes to debilitate rather than to kill, tripping and disarming. Several times the harpies descend upon those whom she leaves wounded and unarmed in the dust, and eventually Lina decides to drive the scavengers away from good by setting their feathers alight.

    Despite being outnumbered, it seems that Zamira will eventually triumph, until Liam gets in a lucky blow and stuns her. Lucia takes that moment to drink the Tonic of Heroism she received from Father Christmas and rushes into battle while Lina provides her with a flaming sword and Anabul sneaks in to flank.

    As Zamira regains her bearings, Lina cuts off her escape with a wall of fire. As she grows bloody the Ogre tells her in a low gravely voice that she should yield, but the Naga spits and defiantly refuses to submit, and fights on for a moment before being cut in two by Lucia.

    The lich applauds wildly and tosses handfuls of gold and jewels upon the new champions. He then proclaims that while he enjoyed the fight, they killed his champion, and one of them will need to stay behind to take her place and defend their title. When asked how long it will be until the next bout, the ogre despondently responds that it will not be until some more fighters happen to come by, typically about once every four years. They flatly refuse his offer, and he tells them that if they refuse to honor the traditions of the coliseum, he must make amends by the ancient law and feed them to the lions.

    A moment later, the side wall of the coliseum bursts as a rampaging chimera charges onto the field in a blood frenzy. The creature has the body of an elephant, the heads of a lion, alligator, and goat, and the tail of a venomous serpent. Liquade attempts to soothe the beast, but to no avail, it is too far gone. The group quickly quaffs potions to mend their wounds and Lina casts a spell to shroud them in hell fire.

    They then fight to survive, surrounding the beast and fighting defensively, and though they get a few good hits off, in truth it is the beast’s own ferocity that does it in, for it pays no heed to the fire that shields its targets and is quickly burned beyond recognition.

    Krazukag guffaws in mirth and pours out the contents of his chest upon the arena floor, showering the wounded warriors with treasure. He then says that he enjoyed the fight, but lost his beast, and asks to keep the bear in return. Liquade agrees, but demands compensation, to which the ogre smiles and says that is might be easier for him to simply kill the lot of them and raise them to fight for him death.

    Liquade relents and leaves the bear, and the ogre claims that he is going to have it sent to a witch for modification. Anabul inquires if it is Hyacinth that he is talking about, and the ogre confirms his suspicious, and Anabul notes their shared love of terrible food.

    They then depart for Meridia, born down by treasure but light on food, foraging along the way. Upon getting home there is a letter waiting for Lucia:

    All the king’s horses and all the king’s men wish that they could do what I can do.
    Come see me at the House of Miracles upon your earliest convenience.



    She journeys alone and asks for Daniel. The girl at the counter tells her that he isn’t here, this task is beyond him. She has been meditating on Lucia’s condition and thinks she has a solution. She says it will be very painful, but Lucia agrees.

    The girl tells Lucia that sleep will only make the pain worse, and though she could probably track down a sedative that would do the trick Lucia doesn’t seem to be the type for it. She has Lucia sit on the bench and then produces an ancient ceremonial dagger which she uses to cut Lucia’s aura away without ever actually touching her. The pain is intense, bringing old memories of forgotten torment bubbling up and bleeding out. She then has Lucia drink from a golden chalice of liquid light, which burns her mouth like molten lead and with each beat of her heart sends pain radiating outward through her circulatory system.

    After finishing the procedure, she tells Lucia that her scarring has been healed, and her chi is now freed up for other purposes. Her soul will heal in time, though it will take longer to fully recover than it does for a mountain to rise from the Earth. She says that the cup is that of Llyr, Son of the Tuatha de Danann and father of mankind. When she was younger, she once sought the Holy Grail before she discovered it was merely a metaphor, and stole this cup thinking it was the chalice of life. She tells Lucia that the Grail once had a physical existence in this world, and that if she can track it down it might be able to accelerate the restoration of her soul.

    Rumors:
    They say that the ancients could forge an indestructible metal. I know, I know, just another legend, but I have seen it. Pieces that were obviously thousands of years old, but that looked to have been cast yesterday. That technique is still out there waiting to be rediscovered, some craftsmen have waster their entire lives perusing it, or gone insane obsessing over it. Some poetic types have even dubbed it “The Riddle of Steel.”

    They say that our navy, you know, the one we got out on the seas blockading Duke Redborne’s ports, fought a battle against a swarm of sea serpents t’other day. But that’s not even the weirdest part, weird part is, the sea serpents won.

    The Pale Worm of Forever? Nightmare incarnate. Even your grandfather wasn't fool enough to tangle with that thing. It doesn't kill what it comes across, that would be too easy, oh no, being eaten is only the start of your agony.




    Commentary:

    Not a whole lot to say about this one. Fairly straightforward fight.

    Only drama was after the session, when Lucia's player insisted that the Zamira fight was completely unfair and he didn't like how I built NPCs. I tried to explain that she was not any more powerful than a PC of her level, which Lucia didn't believe, so I went to the trouble of actually building her as a character and made up a sheet for her, complete with backstory and fluff. It was a bit passive aggressive, and Lucia's player refused to even look at the sheet.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

  19. - Top - End - #19
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Campaign Diary - Heart of Darkness: The Daughters of Rojukan

    Session Thirteen: The Dread Huntsman and the Return to the Mound
    Several weeks after the battle at the coliseum, a small being in filthy robes beckons Liam into one of Meridia’s alleyways and hands him a scrap of hide with crude writing upon it. It is a message dictated by Kishanth which states that the slimy lizard priest has betrayed them both, and promised the Lizard Queen leadership of the mound in exchange for Anabul’s life. Sauriel raiders have been moving from the swamp and picking off their scouts and foragers.

    Kishanth requests that the Daughters of Rojukan honor their pact and assist the goblinoids in driving the Lizard Queen from the region for good.

    Unfortunately, Liam was still recovering from being mauled by the chimera at The Coliseum in the badlands and was not able to travel immediately. Furthermore, when the group does depart, they are beset by the Dread Huntsman.

    He ambushes them in the night. First, he knocks out their sentinel, Anabul, with a fowling arrow, and then moves to execute Lina. Fortunately, she survives the attack, barely, and awakens her companions. The huntsman falls back into the woods and launches volleys of arrows on their campsite from the dark. As the warriors attempt to engage them, he falls back and they get caught up in various booby traps he has set; snares and trip lines. Lina is able to focus her will despite her wounds and sets the huntsman alight with balefire and he retreats.

    The next morning, they happen upon a fellow traveler. She is a girl in her early teens with a boyish figure, short dishwater blonde hair, and ornate earrings. She walks alongside a horse garbed in elaborate barding, and at first they think her a vagabond and horse thief, but she introduces herself as Dame Iolanthe and tells the Daughters of Rojukan she is a knight errant out looking for adventure. The group is skeptical, but she offers to accompany them on their quest to prove her worth.

    A few days later the group drinks from a cursed spring and falls into a sickening sleep, and when they awaken, the Huntsman attacks again. Their movements are slow and the pain of his arrows barely registers. He has tamed an Irkuiem, or slithering whale, a massive swamp aberration, to serve as his guardian and he falls back behind it.

    Unfortunately, luck is not with the huntsman, and his clumsy beast blocks his escape rather than aiding him, and soon both the huntsman and his pet are surrounded and cut down by the Daughters of Rojukan and Dame Iolanthe.

    The group chooses to turn back to recover from their poisoning in Meridia rather than press on to The Mound.

    The sisters feel that Dame Iolanthe fought admirably, and invite her to join their household. She is enthusiastic about the prospect, but upon talking to their family elders they are told that the people of Meridia are leery of feudalistic bonds, have been ever since escaping the tyranny of Donnatrius the Vile, and that while she might be a loyal defender, the other families might use her presence as a weapon in the game of politics.

    The party takes a vote and though Lina is strongly in favor of keeper her around, she is overruled and Dame Iolanthe is sent off. Anabul steals her handkerchief before she goes.

    They set off again, and when they finally reach The Mound, they find it deserted and in ruins, with no sign or their allies.

    The Daughters of Rojukan proceed to enter the briny swamps and track down the remaining sauriels. The lizard folk, being unable to speak Terran, cannot be reasoned with, and battle ensues. The group forms a ring and does battle with the attackers as the Lizard Queen breaks through their lines and attempts to attack Lina directly.
    After a short brutal battle, the sauriel are defeated, but the Lizard Queen’s wounds heal almost as quickly as they are inflicted, apparently there is some truth to the legends about her being immortal while immersed in salt water, and Liquade commands her bunyip to eat her alive.

    After pillaging the sauriel camp, the group returns to The Mound and hears what they take for an approaching horde of raiders; war whoops and yells as well as more than few screams. As it draws closer, they can hear more voices, chanting and speaking and pleading and moaning and gibbering in a multitude of languages.

    Then the Pale Worm of Forever comes into view. The group runs from it and takes refuge in the remains of one of the towers. The worm pursues them. As they hunker down for the night, they see that Liam is not with them. They stay up all night, driven to a panic by the alien monstrosity and the cloud of strange voices that surround it, but eventually it leaves for parts unknown. Liam is found hiding in a muddy ditch nearby, none the worse for wear.


    The Endless Quiver
    This enchanted quiver was carried by the Dread Huntsman. Any arrow placed within it is replicated endlessly, meaning the archer who carries it will never run out of ammunition. Further, it allows for a variety of arrowheads. Liquade filled it with three bodkins, three flight arrows, three fowling arrows, and three pile arrows, making one of each variety from iron, tooth, and silver respectively.

    Lina tried to convince Liquade to see if they could make a fortune by endlessly replicating the golden arrows and then melting them down, but Geomanthus warned them not to test the artifact’s generosity.

    Rumors:

    You ever been to the Lotus Downs? Beautiful little valley, not far from here. Quaint little village right in the middle. Used to be part of Meridia, but not anymore. Maybe it’s time to pay them an official visit before Duke Redborne decides to snap them up?

    Hey! You! You're Rojukan's get, right? I know a secret that may interest you. It cost me a pretty penny, and you'll have to make it worth my while, but I know where he kept his secret treasure. Wealth beyond reckoning, for someone young and fit enough to make the journey to get it. But, once your stinking rich, I hope you'll remember the one who helped you get there?

    Crazy old gnome lives in the hills. Makes toys for the little ones. Tinkers like all his kind do. If you ever want to visit him make sure you do it soon, before the son of a bitch blows himself up, as his kind are want to do.


    Commentary:
    And this is the game where the sandbox format broke down. The party noticed a flaw in the mechanics, that they could simply return to town and rest up each time they had an encounter, planned or random, meaning they would only actually continue to the adventure site if they had no random encounters or mishaps on the journey, and once there they would only play through a single encounter before repeating the process over again. I actually skipped over several of the trips back to town in the writeup above because it is silly and detracts from the narrative.

    In the end I decided there needed to be some consequences for the party's actions and that they would simply arrive too late to be of any help, costing them another ally. The players tried to "put the cart before the horse" and blame me, saying that they had so many random encounters that they had no choice but to turn back as they could never have survived them all, completely ignoring the fact that the only reason they had so many random encounters is because they spent months of game time travelling back and forth between Meridia and the mound.

    A few sessions later I would realize the position was unworkable and drop the sandbox aspect of the campaign entirely.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

  20. - Top - End - #20
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Campaign Diary - Heart of Darkness: The Daughters of Rojukan

    Session Fourteen: Al-hoo-whin and the Return to the Bolt Hole
    Ah-loo-whin was once a mage who wished to learn all the secrets of the cosmos. Not so different from a thousand others. What sets him apart was that he actually succeeded! Of course, his feeble mortal body couldn't hold all that knowledge. They say that his ghost still haunts these lands, burning as it falls, like a comet in the night.


    As the party returns from their encounter with the Pale Worm of Forever at The Mound, they take refuge in a monastery. It appears abandoned until they find the monk’s bodies in the library, their eye sockets smoldering and empty.

    In the center of the room is the former mage and current Archon Al-Hoo-Whin, shining like a luminous butterfly. It sends out waves of psychic energy that only Lucia and Lina are able to remain conscious through, and then attempts to devour the young sorceresses’ mind. She is able to steady her thoughts and create a blade of pure energy which Lucia is able to swing and end the Archon’s long existence with one glorious cut.

    After recovering from the battle, the group decides to return to the Bolt Hole. They are caught by a tropical storm, which destroys their shelter and makes slow going through the insect infested quagmire in its wake, leaving them sick and exhausted when they finally reach their destination.

    They see a warband of nezumi out to spread plague and pestilence, which might or might not have been the same group they encountered earlier. The Daughters of Rojukan attempted to set up an ambush, but the keen-eyed rat folk see through it and instead split the party.

    Lina attempts to incinerate them with a barrage of fireballs, but the nimble creatures are scarcely harmed and the battle goes poorly. Lina then changes to mass scorch spells and is able to take out most of the rodent warriors. The survivors offer their surrender, but Liam refuses and the remaining hengeyokai are killed after a short but brutal skirmish.

    Lina clears the beetles from the tunnel with a wave of fire. They move forward and find an underground lake with a few rickety wooden boats at its shore. In the center is an island inhabited by a massive Amphisbaena, a giant armored serpent, and that lives off the black beetles.

    The bunyip swims out to attack while the rest of the group engages the serpent from the shore with bows, bolts, thrown knives, and shotgun shells, but the creature’s neck is more than long enough to reach them. They fall back, leaving the bunyip to fight alone. It is quickly picked up and shaken, its neck badly injured in the process. Lina conjures sheets of flame crisscrossing the island to distract the serpent, and it pulls back into its hole while the bunyip limps away.

    Lina then fills the amphisbaena’s tunnel with lava, hoping to be rid of it, but a moment later the charred and smoking creature lurches out of its burrow and crashes across the lake towards the shore, bowling through the group. Liquade sets her spear and blocks its path while her companions move to flank it and drive their weapons into the soft gap in its exoskeleton that allows it to turn its head. The massive monster is decapitated and dies soon after, although its severed head inflicts a single serious wound first, a deep bite to Lucia’s leg.

    Once the monster’s head has stopped smoldering, the party uses one of the rickety boats to cross to the island and find that it has been piled high with treasures; coins and jewels and art objects, likely offerings made to the great beast. In the far wall they find a narrow tunnel with numerous footprints; most armored and inhuman.

    Anabul travels down the tunnel for almost a kilometer before returning and reporting that it appears to lead all the way to the underground, and it appears that numerous subterranean warbands have been using it to launch raids on the surface world. Lina superheats the rock and collapses the tunnel before returning to Meridia to store their treasures and sell the salvaged weapons and armor taken off their defeated foes.

    Rumors:

    Beware of men that walk as beasts and beasts that walk as men. The most dangerous of them is an ancient knight, once a glorious seeker of the grail. Over the course of his journey an old woman approached him and begged him for help, but he refused to be swayed from his quest. Three times did she beseech him for aid, and three times she was rebuffed. Then she revealed herself as the Goddess, and she tore the visage of humanity away to reveal the beast within. He still searches for the Grail, now to cure his affliction, and if he finds you in the wild, he will rip off your visage in turn.

    Clover. Clover. Clover. I can't get her out of head. The strange woman who runs sky-clad through the fields. They say she alone can change your fate, but I still don't have the courage to approach her. Maybe you could talk to her for me?

    Hey, a word of advice if I may. Its' a bit of a walk, but I wouldn't go too far into this world without making the acquaintance of the Heart-Blossom witch. Unlike most of her kind, wicked old crones wreathed in warts and wrinkles, she is kind and easy on the eyes. They say that she can heal any injury, and never charges more than you can afford.


    Commentary:
    Not a whole lot to say about this one. Last session was supposed to be a "clean up" mission where the players revisited a few places and dealt with threats that had been skipped over the first time, but the players insistence in returning to town and fully resting up after every fight meant that it took much longer, both in real hours and game time, than expected, and had a disproportionate amount of random encounters.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

  21. - Top - End - #21
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Campaign Diary - Heart of Darkness: The Daughters of Rojukan

    Session Fifteen: The Lotus Downs
    You ever been to the Lotus Downs? Beautiful little valley, not far from here. Quaint little village right in the middle. Used to be part of Meridia, but not anymore. Maybe it’s time to pay them an official visit before Duke Redborne decides to snap them up?

    Travel is slow, the river is broad and many of the surrounding environs are still flooded after the previous month’s storms. The group has to stop and resupply several times in small villages and rural homesteads. At one point, Anabul finds that a curious monkey has made off with the few coins that he had managed to save up.

    The Lotus Downs are the lowest point in the region, a bowl-shaped valley surrounded by rolling hills. The lowlands are wet but not swampy, full of clear-water ponds and rivers that are coated in flowering aquatic plants.

    The village itself is fairly small, no more than two hundred people. Upon approaching, the group hears raised voices; a large man is yelling at one of his neighbors, threatening to report him to a group of Witch Hunters that has been operating in the area. Upon sighting the Daughters of Rojukan, the man mistakes them for said witch hunters and calls them over.

    The man introduces himself as Mr. Dauterive, the local miller. He claims that the other man is a cultist of Moloch and has been sacrificing local children to his dark god, and that he won’t let him take his daughter, Safana.

    Anabul quickly falls into the deception and plays along, pretending to be the inquisitor’s eunuch man servant, who is negotiating on his master (Liam’s) behalf. He agrees to question the suspect, and Mr. Dauterive encourages them to torture the truth out of him.

    The other man invites them into his home and has his wife prepare biscuits and lemonade for them. He is well-dressed and mild-mannered man who goes by the name of Phineas, and works as the local tailor. Lucia questions him and finds that he was once apprenticed to the Starspools of Meridia.

    He claims that people have been disappearing without a trace around town, most of them children, but a few adults as well, a member of the militia, a pair of wood-cutters, and several housewives. He assures the party that he knows nothing, and when asked who the first child to go missing was he tells them that it was Peregrine, the glass-blower’s son.

    The group then goes to the glass-blower’s shop. Anabul stays behind to watch Phineas and snoop through his house, while Nightsong spends her time with the bees in a nearby apiary field.

    They find Peregrine’s parents shoveling sand down by the river. They tell the party that their son went out to play one morning and never returned. Over the past two months many children have similarly disappeared without a trace, most while out playing in the fields, but also a few from their beds at night. The only children who remain in the village between the ages of weaning and puberty is old Widow Henderson’s bastard Chim.

    Liam goes to find the town sheriff and discovers him sleeping on his office porch. When he is awakened, he is momentarily startled by armed strangers in town and goes for his whistle, but Liam calms him down. He introduces himself as Claude, the sheriff, mayor, town clerk, and owner of the only gun in town.

    He claims to have done everything he can, but there is simply no evidence for him to move on. Liam asks why he doesn’t go from house to house or start interrogating the supposed cult members, and he says that he is trying to keep it calm, the last thing they need is the town turning upon itself or forming a lynch mob. Liam accuses him of being cold and complacent, and wonders what will happen to the town without children? The sheriff says that there will be more children, and the he is himself expecting two, one with his wife and the other with his mistress. Liam leaves in disgust.

    The party regroups and Anabul presents his findings, a suspicious looking book which he can’t read. Lina is able to identify it as one of the lesser Keys of Solomon, a tome which details methods for both warding and binding demons.

    That night, the Daughters of Rojukan have dinner at Mr. Dauterive’s house. The miller is pleased that they are investigating, but a little disappointed by their slow progress. The group asks how he knows Phineas is a devil worshipper, and he replies that it is just gossip, one of his wife’s friends claims that he tried to induct her into a cult; few things can stay secret in such a small town. When asked what the town’s priest had to say about the issue the miller says that the town hasn’t had a priest in almost twenty years, since the old church burned down with the preacher in it. He ruminates that it was right about the same time that Phineas traveled to Meridia for his apprenticeship, and that there could be some connection.

    They sleep in the Miller’s barn that night, after they promise that they have no interest in his daughter. The next morning, they seek out Widow Henderson at the edge of town. She is an unpleasant woman in an ill kept house, with long orange hair going gray. When asked about her son, she says that he is an evil seed and constantly in trouble. He father was a handsome and well-dressed stranger from Meridia who seduced her with promises of wealth and life in the big city shortly after her husband passed away, and then left her with the rotten child. She doesn’t know where he is, and then asks the party for a handout to compensate her for her time. They leave.

    They find Chim sitting on a fence overlooking the cemetery near the burned-out ruins of the church, claiming that it is the most interesting place in town. The cemetery itself is strange, with lumpy ground and broken tombstones. A single tree grows in the churchyard, toppling several headstones, and is of a species much larger than those native to the region. The mediums in the group can see the shadows of hanged men dangling from its branches.

    When Chim is asked if he is sad that the other children are gone, he tells them that he is actually glad, that they were always mean to him, throwing rocks and making fun of his clothes, telling him that his mother was a witch and his father was the devil. The young man tries to keep his foul tongue in check, and when asked about why he stays in town he says that he is just taking care of his mom until she passes and he can make for the big city.

    He doesn’t have any information on the disappearances, but when asked if there is anything interesting around town, he tells them about a really neat hole behind one of the hills.

    The group hikes out into the hills and finds the hole. It is about ten inches in diameter, almost perfectly round, and too deep to measure. The group prods at it for a while but is unable to decipher its nature, and are about to leave when they hear a voice coming from it. At first, they think it might be one of the missing people, but it only sometimes seems to answer their questions, the rest of the time it merely spouts out cryptic and vaguely threatening nonsense. They soon realize it is their own words echoing back at them, albeit not in the same order that they were spoken.

    The group then decides to check for more holes. They find that the region is crisscrossed with caves, but that most of the entrances have been collapsed some time ago. Liam spends the rest of the morning attempting to excavate one only to find that it is too difficult to explore without significant spelunking experience.

    When the group returns to Mr. Dauterive’s house they ask about the Chim and the hole. He tells them that Chim isn’t as bad as people make out, and says that he occasionally even gives the boy handouts. He also knows of the hole by reputation, Dougan’s Hole, after an old inventor who used to run experiments on it, like hooking up a phonograph to it and getting messages from far away in time and space.

    Liam decides to stop skulking around and demands to search Phineas’ house. Phineas reluctantly agrees, but at one point Liam notices the man hiding something from him and has Anabul recover it; a jeweled holy symbol that undoubtedly belongs to the fallen angel of wrath. Liam confronts him directly and Phineas refuses to budge, instead sending his wife to get the sheriff, while Liam sends Anabul to get the rest of the party.
    When the sheriff sees the adventurers gathering outside of the tailor’s house, he sends his deputy to round up a posse incase the situation escalates. When Liam comes out to talk to the sheriff, Phineas locks himself inside. Claude attempts to talk Liam down, but Liam instead gives an impassioned speech and turns the majority of the town against him. He calls to his deputy to arrest Liam, but the young blonde man named Gareth steps aside. The sheriff curses the town and throws down his star, but keeps his gun and stomps away.

    A moment later, a tall man in an expensive velvet robe walks out from the crowd, leaning on an ornate cane. He is an ugly man, with a pronounced unibrow, a flabby frame, and long curly hair that was once black, but his voice is rich and commanding. He takes Liam’s hand in a hairy handshake and introduces himself as Mr. Langstrom. He thanks the party for everything they have done in ferreting out the culprit and tells them that Phineas is released into their care.

    Phineas tries to ask the town for support, but everyone he turns to simply looks away.

    The group leaves with their prisoner and his wife, but once they are out of town, they tell him that they don’t think it’s over, and give him a change to talk in exchange for his freedom. He confesses that he was indeed the leader of a cult of Moloch, but they are a legitimate church. They help the community, and never sacrificed anything larger than a pig. In fact, their last prayer was for Moloch to watch over their town and bring their children back to them safe. He further says that Mr. Langstrom is happy to see him and the sheriff go, as he is the richest man in town will basically the run the place in their absence, especially without the church of Moloch paying off people’s debts to keep him from repossessing their land. He will be able to prey upon the populace like a wolf among sheep.

    Phineas further chastises them as the real savages, persecuting legitimate folk religions in the name of unity. The would-be witch hunters demand he provide them with a list of names of his fellow cultists and then take Phineas back to Meridia, where they keep him under arrest at their family compound. When the Daughters of Rojukan return to the Lotus Downs, they enter the village under cover of darkness.

    Liquade knocks on the miller’s door and is greeted with a meaty fist to her jaw. Liam interposes himself between Liquade and Mr. Dauterive, and the man pounds uselessly on his armor before falling into sobs and shouting that they broke their promise.

    Lucia immediately intuits the situation and asks to see Safana’s room. There are no signs of a struggle, and she appears to have left willingly. Liquade tracks her path to a secluded willow grove near a lagoon. As she investigates the scene her pet bunyip slips beneath the surface and begins to hunt the local waterfowl.

    Liquade is able to surmise that Safana snuck out to meet a boy, and that the two of them were dragged off. She is unable to follow the trail, but does see several signs of a struggle including gouges in a log that appear to have been made with a military pick and a print from a small clawed foot.

    The next day, the group investigates the old burned out church where Phineas claimed to have held service. They do indeed find an altar and the remains of sacrificed livestock. They also find a strange cellar door. Anabul unlocks it and they see a long musty staircase descending from view. They travel down the narrow passage for a long time, far longer than the staircase could possibly be, until Anabul starts complaining about his allergies and says he won’t be able to make the return journey.

    They make a mark in the wall and go down another fifty yards before returning. They find the mark where they left it, but after only a few hundred steps they emerge into the light. Lina and Kithicore are not able to detect any magic in the area.

    Lina uses psychometry to get an impression of the area. She gets a vision of a man in the robes of a priest of Ares surrounded by concentric patterns composed of flower petals. He performs a ritual where he attempts to steal the fiery breath of a shadowy dragon and take it into himself. A moment later he bursts into flames and the fire spreads to the rest of the church, and a tall figure composed of wispy orange fire rises from his unworthy flesh, sees itself begin to burn out, and quickly races across the western sky.

    The Daughters of Rojukan question some of the supposed cultists whose names were given to them by Phineas. They are reluctant to talk about first, but fear of exposure loosens their tongues and they corroborate the tailor’s story. When asked about the cellar, they say the group is very lucky. Normally it is only an old root cellar, but when the arch-devil is watching it stretches all the way down to Hell. They frequently prayed that Moloch would come up and bless them with his presence, but he never did.

    They attempt to question Mr. Langstrom, and though the wealthy man is talkative not a lot comes out of the conversation, although they do grow a little suspicious when he excuses a monstrous yawn by claiming he was out conducting business late at night,

    The group begins to despair as to ever finding the missing people. Mr. Dauterive invites them to the village pub to have a drink with the locals and relax. While there, he gets roaring drunk and congratulates Gareth on becoming the new sheriff, and tells him that he will have him as a son in law once Safana is found.

    Despite being the subject of the toast, Gareth quickly finds a way to slip out when nobody is watching, and Lina follows. She pursues him quietly through the cornfields out on the edge of town before he gives her the slip. Lina seems lost, or perhaps cursed, as she passes the same scarecrow half a dozen times. Then she notices that each time she looks the scarecrow is a little closer, until eventually it is standing right beside her, and when she jerks back it nimbly leaps over the fence and moves to wrap its sticklike fingers around her throat. She manages to slip away and wreath herself in flames, which causes the golem to recoil. It then leaps backwards, bounding across the field with an impossibly tall gait, almost like a puppet on strings. Lina fires several bolts of flame after it as it disappears from sight.

    The rest of the group soon notices Lina is gone and sets out after her. They are able to quickly locate her in the burning fields. As they approach, Liquade begins to choke on the smoke and has a fit of coughing and sneezing. Anabul hands her an elaborately monogrammed handkerchief. After she is breathing normally, she looks at it and sees, among other symbols, the family crest of the house of Redborne. When asked where he acquired such a thing Anabul claims that he got it from Dame Iolanthe.

    They soon meet up with Lina and she tells them what happens. Liquade is able to track Gareth to an old dilapidated manor house on the hills at the edge of town, a place which the locals told them once belonged to the local governor when this village was still a vassal of Meridia.

    They send Anabul inside and, in one large and drafty back room, he sees Gareth and three other young men from the village meeting with Mr. Langstrom. They appear to be performing some sort of ritual that looks to be as much a fraternity initiation as a religious rite, and overhears the name Skoll amongst their chanting.

    Anabul reports his findings and the rest of the group bursts in, ready for anything. Mr. Langstrom mutters “Not now,” while the four younger men turn and make feral grins that eventually become so wide their heads split open to reveal the jaws of wild wolves within. A moment later, Mr. Langstrom sighs and joins them, his body bursting out of his clothes to reveal a massive salt and pepper colored wolf.

    As the warriors prepare to do battle with the werewolves, Lina feels a tap on her shoulder and turns to see the scarecrow grinning at her. Liam moves quickly and bashes its head in with his hammer, sending straw flying, but the scarecrow’s only reaction is to hum the melody to “If I only had a brain,” before continuing the fight.

    Puma rolls about on the floor with the werewolf that was Langstrom while Anabul and Lucia do battle with the cubs. It is a long fight, for their wounds heal almost as quickly as they are inflicted when struck by non-silver weapons, but their inexperience eventually allows the humans to strike killing blows, returning their surprised corpses to those of the men they once were.

    After Lina manages to catch the scarecrow on fire and put an end to it for good, Liam turns to Langstrom and brings his hammer down upon the alpha’s head. As it recovers from the powerful blow, the rest of the warriors descend upon his prone form and cut it to pieces.

    The group ransacks the mansion but finds no clues as to what the wolf pack was up to or where they might have taken the missing people, and Liquade says that their tracks didn’t match those found near the place where Safana disappeared. Anabul does, however, find a few valuable art objects to make off with.

    In the lowest basement they find a heavily locked metal disk on the floor, which Anabul springs open. Shadows pour outwards in a solid mass like ink dropped in water. Then they begin to coalesce, phantasmal figures that grab at Lucia with icy claws. Weapons do nothings against the shades, and Liam works to put the heavy lid back in place, but the shadows fight him. Lina and Liquade find that the shadows are as resistant to their magic as they are to physical attacks, they have no spiritual presence at all, and instead Lina conjures a flaming blade for Lucia to defend herself with.

    Once Liam manages to close the portal, Anabul locks it in place. Lucia is able to banish the darkness, the shades fading away as they reach for her and stroke her hair. She is left stiff and numb, her legs feeling as if they were deeply asleep, but she struggles on.

    As the group returns to town, they hear the sound of crashing stone and screams, and they hurry as fast as they are able.

    When the reach the village, they find a giant sinkhole has opened in the center of town and emerging from it is a warband of morlock raiders, hairy gray skinned humanoids with wide pallid eyes. They are busy capturing fleeing townspeople. Behind them is a massive Sarmatian, an enormous snail-like creature the size of a rhinoceros, with a slimy alligator like head and claws emerging from its armored shell. A fortified palisade has been built atop its back, and from within a half dozen morlocks launch sling bullets at anyone who escapes from the perimeter.

    Lucia charges directly towards the great mollusk while Anabul and Liquide fire upon its riders. Puma and Liam work to chase down and subdue the morlock raiders and free their captives.

    Anabul and Liquade are quickly knocked unconscious by heavy stones to their head and Puma falls back to guard their bodies. Lucia is able to slay most of the howdah’s inhabitants before the carnivorous slug brings its jaws down on her sword arm and takes her out of the fight.

    Liam moves over to keep its attention while Lina works to defeat the monster, but its slimy bulk resists her fire. A tense few moments pass as Lina’s mana and Liam’s stamina grow shorter by the moment, but eventually she is able to harness the energy within her amulet to ignite the creature with balefire.

    As their massive war-beast dies and fills the air with the stench of its burning flesh, the remaining morlock raiders lose their nerve and retreat back into their tunnel, leaving the town damaged but whole.

    The heroes do what they can to help rebuild the town as they recuperate. At a town meeting they agree to talk their house into sending a company of soldiers and miners to garrison the town, protecting it from both the morlocks and Duke Redborne’s men. Hopefully they will even be able to give chase to the morlocks, destroying their camps in the region and potentially even rescuing some of their captives that still live in slavery below the earth.

    On their way back to Meridia, the Daughters of Rojukan stop to resupply at a small trading town. While there they see a group of tough looking men tying a scared looking townsperson behind their horses, preparing to drag him behind them as they leave town.

    Lina tells the men to stop, and they identify themselves as the Society of the Evil Eye, the self-same witch hunters that the people of Lotus Down had heard were in the area. She tries to intimidate them with fire, but the men claim that they know how to deal with sorceresses, and wouldn’t be opposed to giving the people a free demonstration of their skills.

    Lucia asks what they are doing, and they claim that the man, Jessup, was a carpenter who offended the local fey by cutting down one of their sacred groves. He promised them five stones of platinum for their protection, and once they had dealt with the fair folk and returned for their payment, he confessed that he didn’t have the reward. Now, the witch-hunters plan to execute him in a brutal display of what happens to those who refuse to pay.

    Lina is able to negotiate for the man’s life, paying the witch-hunters half of what he promised as well as a favor to be named later. When Jessup is freed, they tell him that under Meridian law he is now their slave, and he can start repaying his debt by helping repair the damage the morlocks inflicted on the Lotus Downs.

    Upon returning to Meridia, the girls’ parents explain that they set Phineas free, that they can’t believe their children were impersonating church officials to take free men prisoner. Phineas has, presumably, returned to the employ of the Starspool clan.

    Some days later, the party is sold a map which purports to lead Rojukan’s secret treasure. They find that it leads to Nightsong’s grove. When questioned, she says that she has no knowledge of any treasure and the group concludes that the nymph herself is the treasure. Upon questioning, she confirms that Rojukan was the friend she was talking about, and claims to have seen him within the past several weeks and that he will soon return.

    Rumors:

    Somewhere out there in the wild lands is a sword. A real sword. A weapon of unimaginable power that was ancient when the world was new.

    You see them giant insects in your travels. Mean cusses, manargus I think they are called. They hide their hives well, but they are all over the backwoods. Used to be a lot more of them, or so they say. But I don't worry, because I know the trick to keeping safe. The simple household object that can kill them dead is... (the sailor passes out into his drink and cannot be revived).

    Ever hear of a place called the Swinging Gorge? No? How about the Screaming Gorge? Same place. Terrible deep ravine, with an old bridge hanging over it. Back in the old days, 'fore your fathers time, the Dukes used to hold public executions there. Of course, one can't show that many people that kind of pain and terror and expect them murderer’s ghosts to just flit away. ‘Course its haunted. Why wouldn't it be?


    Commentary:

    This one turned out to be a lot more stressful than I anticipated. I intended this to be a fairly typical site-based adventure which was inspired by urban legends of the American Midwest, primarily those of the Skin-walker Ranch and Stull Kansas. The idea was for the players to explore the town, talk to the locals, kill some monsters, and then stop the Morlock incursion.

    The players, however, decided that it was a murder mystery and were eager to "solve" the town, and grew increasingly frustrated when the answers weren't forthcoming. I actually got to the point where I had NPCs flat out telling them they should investigate the burned down church or the abandoned manor, only for the PCs to respond with "There's no time for that! We have a murder to solve!".

    This was compounded by the fact that three of the five players had been up all night playing video games, and were both in a bad mood and periodically kept falling asleep at the table and missing important information!
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

  22. - Top - End - #22
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Campaign Diary - Heart of Darkness: The Daughters of Rojukan

    Session Sixteen: The Beast and the Return to River Crossing
    Beware of men that walk as beasts and beasts that walk as men. The most dangerous of them is an ancient knight, once a glorious seeker of the grail. Over the course of his journey an old woman approached him and begged him for help, but he refused to be swayed from his quest. Three times did she beseech him for aid, and three times she was rebuffed. Then she revealed herself as the Goddess, and she tore the visage of humanity away to reveal the beast within. He still searches for the Grail, now to cure his affliction, and if he finds you in the wild, he will rip off your visage in turn.

    Several months after the massacre at The Mound, the group decides to return to explore the now empty sewers at River Crossing.

    On their way, they encounter The Beast on a dark and overgrown path through the deep forest. At first it sounds like a column of mounted knights, with echoing hoofbeats and clanking armor, but then a single massive figure emerges from the gloom to block the heroes’ path. A huge minotaur covered in slabs of incredibly heavy iron armor, a solid shield, a chipped sword, and a spiked helm made from the skull of a rhinoceros. Upon sighting the travelers, he lowers his head in a bestial challenge and then charges.

    The front line is sent sprawling. Liam rises to his feet and attempts to deflect the monsters blows, but is quickly cut down. Lucia and Anabul flank the creature and do their best to find a chink in its armor, but it is simply too thick. Liquide attempts to use her mental abilities to drive the monster off, instead it falls to its knees and presents its sword to her.

    The minotaur then follows them on their journey and protects them from the beasts that inhabit the sewers, taking over the brunt of Liam’s role after the blacksmith finds his wounds turning septic in the swamp.

    As they move through the dark and labyrinthine sewers, the Daughters of Rojukan are attacked by several slimes but are able to drive them off without issue. In one dead-end chamber, they find a monstrous Jishin, an ancient crustacean that has long dwelled here and preyed upon those that stumbled into its lair. Anabul tells the party to fall back and wait in ambush while he lures it out, firing a bolt into its carapace and then falling back, but he doesn’t anticipate the monster’s horrific speed and it quickly clamps a claw around his ankle and draws the young rogue back into its lair.

    The Beast moves in after him, completely blocking the tunnel, and the two monsters do battle, neither able to penetrate the other’s armor plating. Lina is able to gather her concentration and focus her power on the Jishin, and a moment later its carapace bursts, spraying the chamber with its steaming guts. A thorough search of the stinking pit turns up more than a few treasures scattered amongst the remains of its previous victims.

    The explorers find one large grate in the sewers and tie their rope to it, dangling into the darkness below, marking it for future exploration and a potential emergency escape route if they get lost or things go bad.

    Moving into the lower sewers, the group passes through a long corridor with numerous worm-holes on the sides, and as they pass, giant burrowing worms grasp at them with toxic tentacles. Lina casts a spell to heat the walls and drive them back, allowing for safe passage.

    They pass down into the central chamber around the Grand Maw of Yuggoth. A voice speaks to them from the alcoves, asking why the traitors have returned. A group of troll refugees, survivors of the slaughter at The Mound, have returned to their old home. Lucia asks what happened and they say that without their allies from Meridia, the Goblinoids and the Sauriels entered into a protracted and extremely costly stalemate, and then when their numbers were low the Pale Worm of Forever absorbed their dead and drove off the living, killing most of the tribe, including Mytilidae. Lucia is able to stave off violence by placing the blame on the Dread Huntsman and overselling the injuries the Daughters of Rojukan suffered at his hands, but the trolls announce that their alliance is over and the humans are no longer welcome in their territory.

    Anabul takes this opportunity to seduce one of the young trolls, and the pair excuse themselves to one of the side chambers. They invite Nightsong to join in, but she is content to watch.

    As the group leaves the sewers, they are again attacked by the tentacles of the burrowing worm. The Beast is quickly ensnared, and his thrashing in the tight corners injures several of his allies, including trampling Anya and injuring her rather seriously, much to Lucia’s regret.
    Lina attempts to heat the walls again, but this time the worms have entangled themselves, some are pulled out of their tunnels into the main hallway, others pull their foes to them. Puma is badly burned as the worm presses him against the heated section of the wall and holds him there, like searing a piece of meat.

    After a long and chaotic battle, the worms are killed or driven back, but the companions are in poor shape, most suffering from the effects of paralytic poison and more than a few burns. Lina does her best to create an antidote, but while she is applying the salve, the ground begins to tremble, and a few moments later the far end of the tunnel collapses as a massive worm emerges.

    This worm is a great Orm, a different species than the burrowers that have previously attacked them, possessing a circular toothy maw instead of tentacles and being as least ten times their size. Lina quickly summons Kindlesnap as well as several minor fire elementals who use their kismet ability to ensure that the massive worm is unable to swallow anyone whole. As her companions pepper the great beast with ranged attacks, Lina binds the fire elementals into the corpses of the dead burrower worms, creating blazing corpse candles which dig through the soft earth and slowly corral the orm away from the area.

    Once it is gone, they find themselves trapped. The way to the upper levels is completely collapsed, and they lack any tools to help with excavation. The search for an alternate way out, even asking the trolls, but to no avail, and so Lucia recklessly strips off her armor and dives into the Grand Maw.

    She soon finds herself carried along into the dark by flowing water, unable to find breath in the churning liquid. She then hits a grate at the end of the drain and is pressed against a spongy mass. She feels around and after a moment realizes what it is, the drowned corpses of those who have taken this route before.

    Anabul does not wait long and quickly jumps in after her, heedless of his wounded leg. He is better able to see in the dark, and is less concerned with finding an escape route than with pocketing the various offerings the trolls have thrown into the pit over the years, including Liam’s watch. Lucia uses all of her might to bend the bars of the grate apart and push Anabul through.

    Anabul falls through the darkness for a long time before smashing into icy black water far below. His last sensation before losing consciousness is being wrapped in warm tentacles.

    Lucia tries to find a latch but is unsuccessful. She knows she can’t swim upstream, and instead attempts to smash the grate. Part of her mind knows it is hopeless, but she ignores it. As her vision begins to go gray from lack of oxygen, she feels a slimy tendril wrap around her, and she bites and claws at it, grappling as it pulls her up the drain shaft.

    Lucia does not stop fighting until she is well and truly gone. Anya had tied the troll’s bedding materials together to make a crude rope and had The Beast do the best he could to fish her out of the pit. They let her sleep off the cold and the damp. Of Anabul, there is no sign.

    The trolls do not know what brought the Orm, but feel that they are being punished by Yuggoth for abandoning this place, and without Mytilidae to re-consecrate it they are no longer safe here.

    The only way out is through the worm tunnels, cramped and damp and probably still inhabited by the poisonous carnivores. But it is the only way out, and the group goes through single file, perhaps to their deaths. Fortunately, most make it to the surface without incident, though Liquide has a scare when she finds her tunnel blocked by the carcass of a dead worm.

    Once on the surface the group scours the city for excavation tools so that Liam can do his best to help The Beast and the Trolls escape the sewers in which they are trapped. During the search, Lucia hears the voice of Anabul’s mother calling to her, and finds the young man on a bed of reeds at the edge of one of the canals, half drowned but still alive.

    Liam is able to supervise the digging, but his gangrenous wounds stop him from contributing much to the effort, though he won’t admit it. Once the trolls have departed the Daughters of Rojukan set out to visit three witches, Clover, Hyacinth, and Heart-Blossom.

    The Clover Witch is a practitioner of changing fate through the magic of wyrd. She dwells alone in the great fields, and is eager for companionship. She is a slender woman of about twenty, though she seems much younger, with a long nose and straight hair pulled tight in an orange pony-tail. She is playful and mischievous, and treats everything as a joke. She helps Lucia create a great number of tonics of serendipity.

    Rose is known as the Heart-Blossom Witch and dwells in the plains between the great river and the scrublands. She is kind and motherly, a tall buxom woman with a heart-shaped face, heavily freckled skin, and long auburn hair that falls down her back in a mass of thick curls. She welcomes the Daughters of Rojukan into her home after their adventures in River Crossing, sharing her medicinal knowledge with Lina and Lucia while curing Liam of the gangrene he contracted in the sewers.

    While in the labyrinth, Anabul joked that The Beast is a better boyfriend for Liquade than Liam and that perhaps they should get married, and suggests that they visit Hyacinth in the nearby moors and ask her to perform the ceremony. Most dismiss him, but Lucia decides that this might not actually be bad idea.

    They pay a visit to the witch of the moors and Lucia asks if she can return the beasts humanity. The witch agrees, although it is a very costly ritual. Upon completion, the bull transforms into a shaggy human man, with a long black beard and untrimmed nails. Unsteady, he requests a mirror and laments that the beast years of his life were lost to him while in the form of a beast. He then demands the witch conjure him a pitcher of water, both to wash himself and to ease his throat while he remembers how to speak.

    He thanks the Daughters of Rojukan and kisses their hands, and tells them they are welcome to visit him at his palace. He introduces himself as Sir Rimould, lord of the town of Jasper Hill to the south of the great river. When the group tells him that those are Duke Redborne’s lands, the knight is incredulous and wonders why the self-proclaimed Duke is suffering from unwarranted delusions of grandeur.

    The party offers to help him in taking his lands back, but he says that they are being premature, that he would like to handle a diplomatic solution first, but would welcome their aid in battle if it comes to it, especially in tracking down the witch who cursed him. He then demands that their boy (Liam) refit his armor for his human form before setting off.

    Rumors:
    You ever hear the expression “To open a can of worms?” You ever wonder where it comes from? It’s not just a figure of speech, its literal. It refers to some sort of artifact or other. No, not Pandora’s Box, something much worse.

    The green folk once dwelt here, but now they are gone. I don't know what they were or where they went, but I sure am glad they left.

    No, not Wart, Wort. If you want to see the Witch of the Worts, I can show you the way. It's a long trek, but I can guarantee that if you do find her the return journey will be a lot easier.



    Commentary:
    This would be Anabul's last session, and also the source of the biggest OOC fight of the campaign.

    Liam and Lina's players would miss the session due to illness, and so I figured it would be a good time to tie up some loose ends rather than progressing the story, and let Lucia and Anabul run the missing players' characters.

    This lead to a couple of dramas. First, Liam decided to troll the absent players, taunting Lina's player by saying how much more effective Lina was when played by someone who knew what they were doing, and then taunting Liam's player about how he was cucked by a cow. This, combined with several non-game related issues that I won't go into here, was enough for him to be disinvited him from the group.

    The second drama involved downtime. Lina has the leadership ability, which allows her to recruit and train followers. After the mission, Lucia asked what to do with it. I looked through my notes, and said to go ahead and upgrade Anya (Lucia's handmaiden) as it was by far the most efficient use of Lina's time. When Lina found out about this, she was furious, saying that she was planning on upgrading Night Song instead (even though, due to the exponential nature of upgrade costs in this system, doing so was essentially pointless at this time) and that we had "robbed and enslaved Lina".

    The two players began to fight, threatening and calling one another names. It eventually escalated to the point where they were threatening to murder the rest of the party and then leave the gaming group, and I eventually stepped in, did the best to take the blame, and then told them that they could upgrade both followers.

    To this day, over a year later, both of the players still resent me for not taking their side.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

  23. - Top - End - #23
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    Default Re: Campaign Diary - Heart of Darkness: The Daughters of Rojukan

    Session Seventeen: The Swinging Gorge
    Ever hear of a place called the Swinging Gorge? No? How about the Screaming Gorge? Same place. Terrible deep ravine, with an old bridge hanging over it. Back in the old days, 'fore your fathers time, the Dukes used to hold public executions there. Of course, one can't show that many people that kind of pain and terror and expect them murderer’s ghosts to just flit away. ‘Course its haunted. Why wouldn't it be?

    After a night of celebration, Anya is sent out to pick up some wine and never returns. Lucia spends several frantic days searching for her, but to no avail, Firiona claims she never arrived and nobody else has seen her. A few days later a messenger claims to have found her, and politely asks for a prisoner exchange for Anabul, framed as a simple transaction to return lost property. Lucia agrees and, without telling the group, lures Anabul out under the rouse of a card tournament.

    When the agents arrive, they do not have Anya, and Lucia treats this as a double cross, but the men in black explain that she has a reputation for responding with violence and betraying her allies, that Anya will be returned once Anabul is spirited away.

    Lucia eventually talks them into making the exchange in a public place and they accept because she and Anabul are apparently alone and unarmed. A group of armed mercenaries accompany Anya to the meeting, and as she is apparently unharmed, Lucia does not attempt immediate retribution, although she makes note of their faces for the future.

    Looking for a replacement for Anabul, the group finds the sell-sword Ga-shia looking for work. She is a member of the Night Blade, an exclusive order of assassins. She is a young woman, short and slender, with a round face, pale skin, and long black hair. She does her best to remain silent and wear her featureless mask at all times, especially in public places.

    The journey to the badlands is uneventful, but while there the group comes upon a cliff which inspires feelings of hopelessness in the group, and Liquade and Liam succumb to them, throwing themselves from the ledge. Though they survive they are injured and require alchemical healing to get them back on their feet. Lina believes that this location was once the location of a suicide and that event has tainted this place, the aura of self-destructive hopelessness haunting it like a ghost.

    The group wanders the badlands for a while and runs low on water. Though she tries to remain stoic, Ga-Shia is not used to wilderness travel and is the hardest hit, requiring tonics of vigor to remain on her feet.

    The Daughters of Rojukan are ambushed by a group of outriders loyal to Duke Redborne. They start by rolling several desiccated logs down a hill at the group and then charging them. One of them mentions that their source in Meridia came through and that they were starting to wonder if the group would actually be coming out this way.

    Liam is able to ward away a direct assault and Lina ignites their saddles, forcing them to dismount. They dispatch their enemies easily, the only serious wound suffered in the battle being to Puma, who takes a spear to the side. The victors take the supplies from their enemies and then send their horses on their way, leaving them to the mercy of fate.

    The Swinging Gorge itself is surprisingly fecund, covered in flowering and herbaceous plants. An old stone bridge crosses the center, with numerous gas-lamps lining the sides. Mummified corpses hang from these lamp-posts as well as the bridge’s trusses, and Lina is able to see angry ghosts attached to the bodies, causing them to jerk and twist with malevolence. As they get to the middle of the bridge, Lucia moves to poke one and it lashes at her. As the group debates what to do with the bodies, the bridge begins to shake and swing with heavy footfalls.

    They look up to see a giant creature lumbering towards them, four times the height of a man. It is somewhat humanoid, with a hunched posture, shaggy malformed shoulders, and an almost comically oversized nose. It reminds Lina somewhat of a Goliath. It is clad in hides and holds a large sack in one hand and an uprooted tree in the other, which it swings before it in a sweeping motion.

    The group moves to fight him, but instead of doing battle the behemoth simply brushes them over the side. Lina puts up a good fight, transforming herself into living fire and creating waves of flame that travel the length of the bridge, but the giant is undeterred, blowing her fire out and sending her toppling down below.

    The Daughters of Rojukan land in a refuse pile below the bridge. Despite the fifty meter drop, they are relatively uninjured, suffering more from the giant’s battering than the fall. The refuse pit has many corpses, as well as mud, decaying plant matter, and other things that are less pleasant to dwell on. There are more than a few valuables in the pile, and the group spends a while looting, but eventually tendrils poke out of the mud and begin to wrap about them.

    Nightsong is chocked into unconsciousness, and Lina is only spared the same fate by immolating herself, though her flame does little to the slimy tendrils that glisten with moisture. As Lucia and Ga-shia sever the tentacles one by one, they find that they do not die, but instead turn into serpents and disappear into the muck.

    As they attempt to revive Nightsong, they find the commotion has attracted a group of men, ragged and feral, who seem to know no fear and attack with their bare hands and teeth. They are easily defeated but fight to the death.

    The group then decides to head west, through the swampy chasm bottom, and have to drive off several Kobab devil-toads, large toothed amphibians which are quickly taught their proper place in the food chain by the ravenous bunyip.

    They are attacked by another group of feral humans, these in much worse shape than the first, to the point where their rotting wounds should have already killed many of them, and Lina surmises that they are some form of undead or ghoul. In truth they are ghasts, but none of the travelers know this. This group is large, and moves forward as a mob, undeterred by Lina’s fireballs they quickly surround the party and begin scratching and biting. They are soon defeated, but not before inflicting several vicious bites, particularly to Liquade.

    Eventually, they find a narrow game trail which leads out of the canyon, although their ascent is halted by several Arrachs, large insectile predators that live inside the cracks of the rocky canyon walls and lash out of their long claws. Although they narrow confines of the chasm make fighting them difficult, Lina is eventually able to drive them off with blasts of fiery magic.

    The group debates returning to the bridge after finally reaching the top. When Lucia calls the goliath an insulting name, Anya speaks up and states that his name is Humbaba, and that he was once the guardian of the border between the lands of men and the fey. When Lucia asks how Anya knows this, she says that she saw it in a book, and when Lucia reminds her that she can’t read, Anya explains that it was a picture book, which leaves the older girl exasperated.

    The group decides to raid a hive of giant bees which pollinate the flowers on the cliffside, lowering themselves into the bee’s hive, slaying several enormous drones, and then making off their honey.

    When they decide to face Humbaba again, they make sure to pepper him with arrows, throwing knives, and shotgun pellets rather than letting him close with them. Rather than attempting to sweep them from the bridge, this time the the Goliath simply bashes them and stuffs them into his sack, although he is eventually killed before he can collect the entire group.

    In addition to his captives, the giant’s sack is full of shiny objects he has collected over the years, a rather rich haul, and the group then decides to return to Meridia to nurse their wounds.

    Once back in town, Liquade becomes violently ill, shaking, becoming sensitive to light, and having violent dreams that often bleed over into waking hallucinations. Lina thinks it might be rabies, and it is beyond her skill to treat. They debate taking her to the Heart Blossom witch, but instead decide to go to the House of Miracles, where Daniel is able to cure her from a neurological virus he does not recognize.

    Back in Meridia, the group parts ways with Ga-shia and tells her they will call on her again in the future if they ever need an assassin, but privately decide she isn’t worth the money for wilderness travel. They also hear rumors of an old tinker who lives in the hills between the rivers, and decide to pay him a visit.

    While wandering the old forests near where the river’s fork, the Daughters of Rojukan come upon a large castle which appears to have been abandoned centuries ago, long looted and mostly reclaimed by the forest. In the great hall, they find the mummified body of a massive man sitting in the lord’s chair, dead by garrote. His family crest bears the image of a swan and identifies him as “Sir Donnatrius the Valiant.”

    Linq surmises that these might be the remains of Donnatrius the Vile, the evil king who rules these lands with an iron first until a popular uprising put an end to him almost eight centuries ago.

    His armor is a magnificent thing, well-crafted and impervious to any form of harm the travelers can subject it to. Liam is able to remove it from the body and disassemble it, and although it is too large for him, he is eventually able to incorporate a few of the pieces into his own armor for greatly enhanced protection.

    When they eventually find the tinker’s workshop, they discover that he is not a gnome at all, but a shaved dwarf. His name is Tarek and he speaks little of his past save for occasionally pining for the high-quality metals he used to work with.

    When Liam shows him his shotgun, Tarek regretfully says that it is one of his older works, but he is embarrassed by the crude quality and offers to make Liam something better, as well as teaching the metal-worker a few things about gunsmithing and sharing his recipe for dynamite with Lucia. When asked why he lives out in the hills he explains that there is a secret cave nearby from which he collects guano.

    When showed a piece of metal taken from Donnatrius’ armor he identifies it as adamant, and dismisses it as inferior to good dwarven steel.

    Rumors:

    She is one of the old people, the cliff dwellers. She sits on the mesa, her sun-kissed skin bare and marked only by ritual tattoos. She talks to the clouds and reads the wind, telling the future based on what they bring her. She is Dandelion, and she carries the weight of the world in her seed bowls.

    Lily. Tiger Lily. Fire Lily. All the world is a game to her, and if she gets bored, she will burn it all down. Approach her if you dare. Never could figure out how to get on a redhead's good side, just ask my late wife.


    You have heard the tale of old Brass Belly, right? Only dragon in these parts. Course you have, were it not he that finally made an end of your old pap? Well, you are getting to be kind of big heroes yourselves, and maybe the lot of you just might be able to do what he couldn’t and reclaim his mana in the process. His lair is far from here by foot, but you seem to know the roads better than most.


    Commentary:

    It's been a while. Dang holidays.

    With Anabul gone, the group needed a rogue type, and decided to take on a mercenary. I had created a stable of hirelings for the players to choose from, but they had neglected to actually purchase any before now. Unfortunately, this isn't really the type of mission where a stealth character is terribly useful, so she turned out underwhelming, but bringing along NPC hirelings would become the standard from this point on.

    This was a pretty straightforward and unremarkable session at the table, but it sparked one of the longest forum controversies of the campaign.

    Hunbaba was a mutant fomorian. I wanted him to be more curious and comical than sadistic, and evoke a sort of "fairy tale-ogre" feel. One of the changes I made was to replace his evil eye ability with a sneeze attack, as I felt this better matched his flavor and his preferred tactic of tossing people off the bridge / stuffing them into his sack rather than killing them.

    After the first encounter, Lina accused me of railroading. At first I thought this meant creating an encounter where the most likely outcome was the players being tossed over the edge, but later I learned it was because Lina's player thought I had pulled the sneeze attack out of my butt on the sport to counteract her elemental body spell, as it would otherwise allow her to solo a monster with no ranged attacks and then split the party.

    This wasn't the case of course, but I still started a thread about whether or not creating an encounter where the most likely outcome was the players suffering a set back did indeed count as a railroad. The just seemed to be out, but instead it started the enduring topic of "gotcha monsters".

    I am still not quite clear on what this term means, and it appears to mean something different to everyone, but in this case I believe the idea is that I created a monster than appears to be a big dumb melee brute, thus lulling the PCs into a false sense of complacency and then getting them to waste spell slots, and then springing the ranged attack on them without warning.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

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